10 Things You Didn’t Know About Quiznos

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This toasted sub pioneer was founded by a professional chef

Photo Modified: Flickr / thp4CC BY 4.0

Quiznos rose to fame on the popularity of its toasted sandwiches.

In the fast food sandwich chain pantheon, Quiznos has long taken a backseat to Subway, which has many, many more locations. But fans of Quiznos will tell you that they wouldn’t even consider eating at a different sandwich shop. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Quiznos.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Quiznos (Slideshow)

Quiznos was founded in 1981 by Jimmy Lambatos, who started an Italian restaurant chain called Footers in 1978 along with his business partner Todd Disner. The first location of Quiznos opened in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, at the corner of 13th and Grant Streets, and it’s still there today. The shop quickly gained a devoted following for its toasted subs, a hallmark from day one that was inspired by the sandwiches Lambatos ate while growing up in New York.

Two years later the duo began opening Quiznos franchises, and in 1987 an aviation attorney named Richard Schaden and his 23-year-old son Rick bought a franchise of their own. In 1991 the Schadens purchased the entire company from Lambatos and Disner, which by then had expanded to 18 locations. Rick, still in his 20s, became president and later CEO, building out an infrastructure, operations procedures, marketing support, and supply lines. By 1995, when Rick was only 30, he’d already taken the company public (yielding $4.4 million) and had expanded it to more than 100 locations.

Since then, Quiznos has had some very public ups and downs. Competitors like Subway also began toasting their sandwiches, 2,000 stores shut down during the Great Recession, and in 2014 the chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, emerging four months later with $400 million in reduced debt. Today the chain is focusing on international expansion with a new CEO, and while it was one of the country’s 20 largest chains (in systemwide sales) as recently as 2008, today it doesn’t even crack to the top 50. From its 2007 peak of more than 5,000 locations, today there are only about 1,500 stores worldwide, with about 900 in the United States.

While Quiznos’ future is decidedly uncertain, its past has been quite a ride. Read on for 10 things you most likely didn’t know about Quiznos.

It Was Founded by a Professional Chef


As opposed to the founders of most other chain restaurants, who were generally professional entrepreneurs or amateur cooks, Jimmy Lambatos was a professional chef, running the kitchen at an outpost of now-closed chain Colorado Mine Co. Steakhouse. He developed the recipes for all of Quiznos’ breads, soups, and dressings.

It Started the Toasted Sandwich Trend


Before Quiznos, the concept of a hot and toasted sandwich was still relatively unheard of. Today, just about every sandwich shop has a small oven. 

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