Quizno's Subs to expand in region

Chain aims to increase shops from 7 to up to 40

It's called a fancier Subway

January 04, 2003|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Quizno's Subs could become as much a presence in the Baltimore area as Subway over the next two years as the Denver sandwich chain launches an aggressive expansion to quadruple its size.

The national chain, which has seven restaurants in Baltimore City and in Baltimore and Harford counties, plans to open as many as 40 franchised stores in those areas by the end of 2004, including four in the next three months.

Quizno's, which says its "oven-toasted" sandwiches set it apart from other sub shops, will open new outlets in Reisterstown, Owings Mills, Towson and Perry Hall, said Glenn Gustafsson, an area director for Quizno's.

The company is also close to signing two more leases in Baltimore, he said.

In the past 2 1/2 years, Quizno's has opened restaurants in Baltimore, at Calvert and Fayette streets, and in Owings Mills, Pikesville, Timonium, Bel Air, Odenton, Glen Burnie and Columbia. Quizno's also has shops in Frederick and Hagerstown.

The company has already sold 15 of the planned 40 new franchises in the city and Baltimore and Harford counties.

"We're the fastest-growing franchise around," Gustafsson said. "The only difficulty I've had ... has been the availability of real estate."

The Baltimore market presents a challenge because of the lack of new retail construction. The chain expects to open stores mostly in strip shopping centers, said Keith Barnett of KLNB Retail, which is helping Quizno's find sites in the Baltimore area.

The first Quizno's in Maryland opened in Timonium in 2000.

Sales at each new store in the Baltimore area have been "phenomenal," above the chain's national, per-store average, Gustafsson said.

The company, which operates 1,900 Quizno's in the U.S. and in 13 foreign countries, says it is opening new stores at a rate of one every 16 hours. Between 1996 and 2000, the chain grew from 100 restaurants to 1,000.

It is aggressively growing on the East Coast now.

Nation's Restaurant News in July ranked Quizno's No. 1 in the sandwich chain category in both unit growth and system-wide sales growth.

The chain is one of the newly emerging, so-called "quick casual" eateries, such as Panera Bread, Baha Fresh Mexican Grill and Chipotle Mexican Grill that are putting pressure on traditional fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's and Burger King.

The quick-casual category has caught on as people have begun eating better, desire more menu choices and have become more experimental with foods, restaurant analysts say.

Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD Group's Foodworld, a consumer market research firm in Chicago, calls it the "Starbucks-izing of Subway," with the quick-casual chains offering improved atmosphere and food.

Quizno's sells hot and cold sandwiches served on freshly baked bread, with offerings such as the Classic Italian, mesquite chicken with bacon and black Angus steak, as well as low-fat sandwiches, salads and soups.

Even though competition for store space in the 1,400-square- foot to 1,600-square-foot range has been stiff, Gustafsson believes it will get a bit easier.

"We're getting a reputation now," Gustafsson said.

"The brand recognition is there. People are starting to approach us now, and developers and landlords are looking to get a Quizno's in their space."

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