The Alphabetical Reason Quiznos Got Its Name

While Quizno's might not be as common as they used to be, there was a time when the unique name was on signs and billboards across the globe. The name was meant for greatness right from the start.

Quizno's opened in 1978 as Sandwich World before assuming its current name in 1981. Mental Floss reports that the first location was opened by chef Jimmy Lambatos, who was eager to make a name for himself — literally. According to the Washington Post, Lambatos completely made up the name Quizno's. He had spent years working in fine dining and had already perfected a unique approach to making subs inspired by his youth in New York City. He planned to toast the subs to enhance their flavors and mastered the technique while working at his former restaurant Footers.

The Washington Post says that the invention of the name was just as calculated as the decision to toast the subs. Former Quizno's owner Rick Schaden claims Lambatos had read about memorable names in the Wall Street Journal. Supposedly, he heard that names with the letters Q and Z were more memorable because these were uncommon letters. He chose not to take any risks and put them both into a made up name he hoped would help with brand recognition.

While Lambatos sold the chain, and Schaden and his father would eventually buy controlling shares, that knack for advertising and brand recognition would become a trademark of the Quizno's legacy.

Quizno's unique advertising approach

The Washington Post reports that around 2002, Quizno's was seeking to get its unique name into the minds of more folks across the country to help sell more sandwiches. It needed to separate its brand from its biggest competitor, Subway, and decided that highlighting its toasted sandwiches was the way to go. They decided it was time to go big, and so they bought an ad slot during the next year's Super Bowl. Top ad men were enlisted to help come up with ideas and the winning option was a humorous commercial featuring a faux "consumer study." AdAge says that this was the same Super Bowl that Subway premiered an ad starring spokesman Jared Fogle, and effectively set the two chains apart.

Another instance of Quizno's sticky advertising would come a few years later in the form of the Spongemonkey ads. Even if you've never heard of a Spongemonkey, if you were watching TV in 2004, you may still be haunted by the ad. Huffington Post says that many have taken to social media in recent years to publicly recollect the strange ads together and appreciate the irreverent, meme-like humor that was years ahead of its time. The ads featured a simply written, off-key performance of a jingle performed by a pair of rodents with enormous, human-like eyes. It was apparently effective enough that all these years later, viewers have yet to forget it.

It takes more than a name

While Quizno's had great name recognition at this time, it wasn't enough to carry its business through the hard times to come.

According to Restaurant Business, Quizno's saw a massive drop in their franchises between 2007 and 2017. In that decade, they went from having 4,700 locations in operation to a meager 400 — the reason being that the company was not the most adept at handling its franchisees.

Global Franchise says that as Quizno's was expanding overseas around 2001, it was already showing signs that it didn't know how to help its franchise owners succeed. It apparently opened three locations in Birmingham, U.K. that cannibalized each other in their opening days. As Quizno's fast-food rivalry with Subway was heating up in the wake of the controversial $5 footlong, they started to issue massive discounts, including free sandwich coupons. Restaurant Business says these coupons were received with hostility from franchise operators, some of whom refused to accept them from customers.

In 2018, Quizno's would be acquired by REGO Restaurant Group, who would help to stabilize the failing business, per Global Franchise. Still, the brand kept its original catchy name chosen by Lambatos almost 40 years earlier.