Submarina CEO talks turnaround, growth

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What are the chain’s growth plans for 2012?

We have an outstanding area developer in Texas, Robert Pina, a former Subway franchisee who also created Wings-N-More in Houston.

His principle for growth is opening Submarinas as an area developer there. He is planning to open 25 in two years, and the first three open in the first two months of 2012. He has great locations.

We’ve got tremendous growth planned in Texas, but we also have sights set on Florida, particularly the corridor from Valdosta, Ga., to Tampa and St. Pete. There’s also a lot of opportunity in California, where we’ve been for 35 years. About 90 percent of our sales come from California, and we’ll keep the San Marcos headquarters as a regional office.

Conservatively, we’ll see 20 locations open in 2012.

What menu upgrades are planned for 2012?

We have some proprietary new salad dressings that we’ve been testing, and we’ll be bringing out some new salads as well.

The big thing is our new stores, and select existing stores will move to on-premise fresh baked bread. While some of our competitors have fresh-baked on premises, none have the quality dough our bread is made with. It comes in frozen and pre-formed from a supplier who also supplies tablecloth restaurants.

Are you looking at breakfast at all, like some of your competitors?

Yes, we have dabbled in breakfast with some limited success in some markets, and in other markets none. It really depends on location and customer demand. Because we have traditionally been so focused on locations that have tremendous lunch traffic, we have a lot of locations that just don’t have a demand for breakfast. We are a destination for lunch and our breakfast offerings were perceived as being ancillary, not a destination offering.

However, where there is a significant demand for breakfast, we are going to experiment more with it.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout