Jan 31 2018
Meredith Bethune
3 Minutes to read

West Coast sandwich lovers know they can rely on Togo’s, the “West Coast Original.” This restaurant chain, with over 250 locations in California, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington, is beloved for its signature sandwiches like the Hot Pastrami or Turkey & Avocado. According to Business Insider, Togo’s never stops pushing for even better service and quality, promising that this year will bring new menu offerings and 20% more meat on their sandwiches. Whether you order a trusty standby or something new, everything is always comforting, consistent, and available at a great value.  

The origins of Togo Sandwiches catering go all the way back to 1971 when San Jose State University student Mike Cobler bought a struggling local sandwich shop and quickly turned it into a thriving franchise.  Their locations have been filled with loyal customers ever since.

But, with all those hungry customers, there were still only so many seats in each restaurant. So what did they do to meet the demand? Jenny Lynch, Director of Off-Site Sales for Togo’s Sandwiches, says savvy restaurant owners know that catering means the sky’s the limit when it comes to food sales. Hired last year, Jenny Lynch is a veteran of the business and spoke with us about how Togo sandwiches catering is updating the program to appeal to new customers while keeping their already dedicated fanbase happy.

Togo's Sandwiches Catering

Togo’s Sandwiches has quite a long history. In your opinion, why has the company been able to stay successful for so many years?

We started in San Jose, and people remember it from their childhood. It’s either their parents went there, or they went there as a kid, or they went there in college- maybe there was one close to their house. It was a destination for them. It brings up people’s memories of the past. 

When they drive by a Togo’s, they stop in. There are some staple items that people love. They love the bread; they love the turkey, they love the avocado. And we use fresh ingredients. We’re always trying to make sure that we’ve got the best product. I think they keep coming back because they love the sandwiches, right?

What makes Togo’s Sandwiches special? How does it stand out among other sandwich chains?

People like the consistency. They like to know what they’re getting. They know when they walk into a Togo’s, they can get a number 24 (Turkey & Avocado)  and it’s going to taste good.

I think we’re a rock for some people during lunch. They only have fifteen minutes, so they say, “Okay let’s go to Togo’s, grab a sandwich, go back to the office and get back to work.

As the Director of Off-Site Sales, how have you updated the Togo Sandwiches catering program recently?

We’re basically streamlining right now. A lot of franchisees were kind of doing their own thing, but we feel that consistency is key. We’re updating our catering manual, and making the menu easier for our clients to understand. Right now we’re also in the process of updating all the packaging, like for our new box lunch and our new sandwich trays. All of that is in the testing phase right now—  we haven’t launched it to the whole system yet.

How do you stay apprised of changing tastes and trends in food so you can efficiently update the menu?

It’s all about us going out into the community and explaining to newer companies why we’re better than the other guys. I think our outreach is better, with boots on the ground, knocking on doors. We really enhanced our whole online ordering program, so it’s easier to order as well.

But as far as how we’re keeping up, I would probably say that we look at the competitors too, and see what they’re doing well. We want to be one step ahead, and that’s why we’re joining forces with ezCater. 

Can you tell us about the changes you’ve made to the catering menu?

Yes, we’ve updated our catering menu and introduced new offerings, like the sandwich tray. People love the number 24, they love our turkey and cheese, and turkey and avocado, so we make sure that we build those into our assortment, too.

Millennials’ tastes are changing, so we’re getting creative and innovative on new items like salads and wraps. We never had a barbecue chicken salad for a group before. And people have been asking about that. So now we’ve created a new barbecue chicken salad and a new Mediterranean chicken salad that work well for a group.

I would say we looked at our menu and took off the things that weren’t selling, and added items we knew our guests wanted – things that they had been requesting.

How do you balance appealing to your loyal customer base while still reaching out to new people?

Yeah, that’s hard! That’s why we keep some of our core items that people love, and that’s why we work on new items to bring in a new type of guest.

Offering more chicken on our salads, more meat on our sandwiches, that’s something we’re focusing on right now to try to get those people who may be going to some of our competitors. 

And also, we try to do it fast. Everybody wants food fast right now. They want it delivered. They want it within twenty minutes. So really looking at our business model and seeing are we keeping up with the times. Are we too slow? Is there anything that we can do behind the counter to make our operations faster? So, that’s what we do to keep up right now because the biggest thing people want is to get it fast.

What’s next for Togo’s Sandwiches regarding catering?

Currently, our catering menu doesn’t offer hot items, but people have requested them. So we’re looking at how to build hot sandwiches into our catering items as well. 

What advice do you have for caterers looking to grow their business?

It’s building relationships. That’s why people keep coming back. You have to be consistent with your food and the way you’re offering it. So if I order from one Togo’s in San Jose, California, and I’m from Orange County, California, it has to be the same as what I’m used to. We want it to be consistent. The catering client wants to know what they’re getting. It needs to be right, and it needs to be on time. Those are the two things that need to happen. 

What’s your favorite menu item?

I love our number 24, the Turkey & Avocado. You really just can’t go wrong.

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Written by:

Meredith Bethune

Meredith Bethune is a former cheesemonger turned writer for publications like Travel + Leisure, Saveur, Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, Robb Report, and more. She’s also the former associate editor of Eater D.C. where she reported on Washington’s latest restaurant trends and news. In the name of journalism, she has interviewed an octogenarian tofu maker in Japan, eaten breakfast on the savanna in Kenya, and sipped rare cognac in France.

Posted in: Trends in FoodNeed to Know

Tagged with: Caterer Network, Catering, Sandwiches