Quiznos, which once numbered 5,000 or so locations, is being acquired by High Bluff Capital Partners, a private investment firm that touts itself as a company specializing in transformation opportunities. The San Diego-based firm bought Quiznos from parent company QCE LLC and its subsidiaries. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
High Bluff Capital Partners said Susan Lintonsmith, who has led the brand for the past two years, would retain her role as president and CEO.
“I’m excited about the future with High Bluff Capital Partners, and the level of experience and commitment they bring to Quiznos. I believe this is the infusion we need to take the brand to the next level,” she said in a statement.
“Quiznos is an iconic brand with strong awareness and attractive upside in the sandwich segment,” added Gerry Lopez, High Bluff operating partner and executive chairman. “We are excited about the acquisition. We have the commitment, industry knowledge and flexible capital to build on recent successes and drive future, sustainable growth.”
Founded in 1981, Denver-based Quiznos’ retraction since 2007 has taken it down to about 800 units, with a large swath of those stores in 32 countries outside the U.S. The brand closed more than 100 restaurants in fiscal 2017. The brand emerged from bankruptcy in 2014. Executives agreed to a restructuring plan at the time that would reduce its debt by more than $400 million. The plan involved three of the top figures in the company forming an agreement to trade $445 million in debt for $200 million in new debt plus 70 percent of its shares.
During its retraction, Quiznos had to deal with a bevy of legal issues with franchisees over its purchasing policies and high-food costs.
Lintonsmith’s “New Deal” program, launched in 2016, shrunk royalty payments and payments toward the chain’s national marketing program in an effort to aid franchisees. It saved them about $12,000 per year, reports said. Quiznos had about 1,000 restaurants in 2016.
As the Denver Business Journal explains, Quiznos struggled through The Great Recession due to its heavy office footprint. Since those buildings suddenly had less tenants and workers, Quiznos had to grapple with less business. The influx of fast-casual operators into the space also squeezed margins.
Lintonsmith spearheaded Quiznos Toast Points mobile loyalty program and has been at the wheel for some recent menu innovations, including Toasty Tots.