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New Quiznos Lawsuits

Quiznos is facing more class-action lawsuits over delays in getting locations approved for its franchisees, and keeping their $25,000 franchise fee.

More from the Denver Post article:

The case alleges “deceptive business practices” in the company’s franchise sales method and demands that the company stop selling franchises in New Jersey until all existing franchisees get locations or are refunded their franchise fees.

In a separate case filed in December in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the plaintiffs allege that the company is violating Canadian franchise law by not disclosing to potential franchisees full details and processes for securing locations.

Quiznos, of course, denies violating any law.

Hat tip: Paul Steinberg

Franchisors usually carefully craft the franchise agreements to enable wiggle room in stalling or denying approval of locations. Warning flags include evidence of high franchisee turnover or higher proportion of revenue from non-royalty revenue which can sometimes be gathered and deduced from the UFOC Items 19-21. I know of a major dating franchise where one location in a big city has been sold 3 times over in the past few years, with the most recent franchisee begging the previous franchisee who sold it to him to take it back for FREE because it was draining money. If he closed the business, he would have breached the franchise agreement and would be obliged to pay tens of thousands in fees, charges and damages.

Update: March 1, 2006
You can track the Ontario case on Goldman Sloan Nash & Haber’s web site, the Canadian law firm representing the plaintiff. The firm posted the detailed statement of claim (complaint) against Quiznos.

Hat tip: Michael Webster

Quiznos Sales & Profitablity – Summary Report

Quiznos Sales and Profitability.pdf pdf

“former owner”, a commenter on this site, left a tip on a document posted at the Toasted Subs Franchisee Association. The document purports to be a summary on Quiznos store profitability. Is it legitimate and accurate? I have no idea, but it’s probably in the ballpark. It’s apparently based on estimates gathered by franchisee sources reporting. Here’s snippet:

Quiznos Sales and Profitability – below is a list of sales statistics compiled year-to-date for Quiznos stores as of August 2005. In the Quinzos chain, an average new store (opened in the last 12 months) can break even around $7,000 to $8000, depending on fixed costs. This charts shows the number of stores breaking even or even losing money inthis chain. These sales figures are accurate. The profitabily estimates, are just that…estimates based on franchisee sources reporting.

Thanks “former owner”!

Quiznos gets toasted with lawsuit

It looks like the Quiznos franchisees are not standing by in the face of apparent fraud:

The primary allegations of the complaint are that the franchisees were harmed by the company’s "deceptive recruitment practices" and "failure to deal in good faith" when it took franchise fees from the plaintiffs, but refused to approve locations to open Quizno’s stores. In addition, the complaint charged, Quizno’s has refused to return any portion of the franchise fees, even though the plaintiffs paid more than 18 months ago and are now being threatened with termination.

and more general comments…

Commenting on the lawsuit, Susan P. Kezios, President of the American Franchisee Association, said, "This lawsuit is a classic example of a popular franchise chain using its brand name recognition to deceive hard-working Americans into investing their dollars to grow a franchise. Bob-the talking baby in Quizno’s current media campaign-is definitely talking out of both sides of his mouth in this case."

Added Klein: "It is unfortunate that not enough people are aware of the abuse that franchisees often endure at the hand of their franchisors. Too many entrepreneurs automatically assume that buying a franchise is a safe investment. We are confident that we will prevail in our lawsuit, and are eager to finally bring justice to the franchisees who were victimized while also alerting people who are interested in purchasing a Quizno’s franchise to make an educated decision.

I don’t have a comment from Quiznos, but I’d assume they deny the allegations. Still, Quiznos claims to open a new franchise every 16 hours. Have those franchisees all done enough due diligence to uncover these allegations of fraud? I fear they are too eager to hand over the $25,000 franchise fee.

Even if this lawsuit turns out to represents a relatively small percentage of franchisees, I would never buy a franchise from a company who would keep an entire franchise fee after refusing to timely approve site selection. Perhaps Quiznos has a logical explanation, but I find it hard to believe so many franchisees in the same city would have the identical claims of fraud. Our legal system allows freedom to contract even if the terms are unfair, but those contracts are not enforceable if one can prove fraud or unconscionable terms.

So what is the problem?

  • management’s ego and greed
  • salesmen training and guidelines
  • commission/bonus structure

The salemen’s compensation is composed of mostly commission and bonuses on total franchise fees. There is virtually no regard for franchisee’s site selection wished or oversaturating the geographic market. Management is certainly aware of the complications, but do nothing so long as the franchise fees keep rolling in. These circumstances seem obvious to me. What do you think?

What a Quiznos franchisee makes

As a follow up to our previous article regarding Quiznos and the importance of legal representation, the QuiznosSucks.com owner posted his (claimed) financial results from owning a Quiznos franchise:

Topic: How much a Quiznos earns
Posted by: XXXXXXX
Date/Time: in 2005

I am a Quiznos franchisee. Here is a breakdown of how much a franchisee can potentially earn — or not earn.

The figures are not necessarily BAD, I guess I just wish someone gave me these hard figured BEFORE I bought one.

If a store earns $40,000 / month:
7% Royalty $ 2,800
1% Local Advertising $ 400
3% national advertising $ 1,200
20% Labor $ 8,000
29% Food $ 11,600
3% Paper $ 1,200
.3% Accounting/Payroll $ 300
10% Rent/CAM $ 4,000
2.75% Insurance / Misc. $ 1,100
5% repay SBA loan $ 2,000
4.5% misc bills (utilities, etc) $ 1,800
.5% Spoilage $ 200
1% Supplies $ 400
1% Promo Food $ 400
1% Comp Food $ 400
2.9% Credit Card Fee $ 1,160
.4% Coupons $ 160
.5% Food Waste $ 200

No one has any control over %. They are fixed and that is that. So if a store is lucky enough to earn $480,000 annual, the owner can expect to walk away with a profit of 9.4% = $45,120 [edit by Ryan Knoll: I believe this should be 7.15% = $34,320 based on the numbers provided]. No one is going get rich off of that. Of course if an owner can get cheaper rent, and increase sales, it will be of great benefit.

The average store seems to be about 1,500 – 1800 sq ft. and the going rate is $17.50 – $30.00 sq ft + $5.50 – $8.00 CAM.

That looks reasonable to me and should be considered by anyone buying an existing or new franchise. People often forget the expense of promos and coupons, credit card fees, insurance, and payroll expenses. The pretty picture the franchise sales rep paints for you often is the “best case” scenario.

Well, you might think, “That’s a 18% return on my investment of $250,000! I’ll take it!”. That’s not an accurate reflection of your actual return. Those results assume you are working at the franchise full-time and do not include your or your manager’s salary. So, if you think your year’s effort is fairly compensated at $45,000, then your real return on your investment is ZERO (actually it’s negative because you could be making 4-5% in bonds).

Unintended Franchise Killer – Street and Rail Construction Projects

Imagine you have the perfect location for your franchise near a stadium with lots of pedestrian traffic. You spend $450,000 to get your first franchise built and ready. Opening week was wonderful with sales of $12,000 and subsequents weeks continue on with profits. Then, a major light rail construction project starts out front and blocks your sidewalk. After a few weeks of jack hammers and tarps blocking views, nobody is venturing down your way because they don’t want to deal with the noise and nuisance. The construction project lasts for 8 months.

A similar story has happened in Minneapolis, MN in an area called “Stadium Village” near Target Field. Quiznos couldn’t afford to stay open. Independent fast food places such as Hot Diggity Dog and Leo’s Burritos also shut down with no word whether they will reopen.

This is a really unfortunate and sad situation. These projects are often years in the making so perhaps the franchisee should have anticipated this development. Nevertheless, with strict operating rules in a franchise agreement there is not much the franchisee can do to adjust operations.

Where’s the Beef? You’re Terminated!

Imagine if you were a franchisee and a mystery shopper from the franchisor anonymously visited your store and ordered a sandwich.  The meat in the sandwich you served happened to be 1/2 an ounce smaller that the standard 4.5 ounces.  Would it be fair to lose your franchise because of default?  You did break the rules, eh?  But what if was really a charade to encourage compliance?This was the situation a Denver court had to deal with.    The final judgment was that Quiznos had in fact breached the contract by wrongfully terminating the defendants, and awarded them $349,797.http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2009/01/quiznos_gets_grilled_in_a_new.php

Dream Dinners Hammered by Forbes

DreamDinners-OwnersDream Dinners is an example of good idea but profit challenged business model.   It’s just too expensive to attract and retain customers.

A Forbes article looked through the Dream Dinners FDD from the state of Washington, and focused on the required audited financial statements.

As of Dec. 31, the company boasted $2.9 million in assets, against which it carried $3.4 million in liabilities. (Such negative book value implies that if Dream Dinners were unwound today, shareholders wouldn’t get much.) That’s a snapshot, but here’s a trend: Last year, the company lost $628,000 on $7.5 million in sales; compare that to 2005, when it earned $928,000 on sales of $4.5 million.


Typically, new business concepts need up to five years to season before they can be franchised successfully. Dream Dinners–along with its next largest competitor Super Suppers, now with 165 stores–both began franchising in less than two years.

Franchisees accused the franchisor of false promises and unsubstantiated financial projections.

A major point of contention has to do with rosy promises Dream Dinners seemed to have made to its franchisees. Under the Federal Trade Commission’s franchise law, franchisers are not permitted to make “predictions” about franchisees’ financial success–unless they do it in the Uniform Franchise Offering Document, which typically contains a host of disclaimers.

Dream Dinners “totally disregarded these regulations,” says Garner. It not only posted financial projections on its company Web site, he says, it also put them in a Power Point presentation given to potential franchisees.

Jennifer Hemann, a former Dream Dinners franchisee in Maryland and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, alleges that she was shown that Power Point presentation–which included estimated profit margins for a given volume of customers–when interviewing with the founders. “They told us, ‘Our lawyers said not to show this to you, but if you write fast, you can get it all down,'” she says…

The slides, provided by Garner, present some tantalizing figures: Allen and Kuna projected that, at 187 customers per month, a franchisee could expect to earn $75,400 in profit annually, or 18.9% of total revenue. On the high end, at a quoted 328 customers per month, net profits jumped to $163,300, or 23.3% of sales. The estimated distance customers would be expected to drive: two to five miles. Allen and Kuna insist that “the figures were realistic and based on the actual performance of stores.”

The owners look innocent and reliable enough, eh?  On face value and blind trust, I would be tempted to believe Allen and Kuna.

Meal Assembly Watch has an insightful 5 Ways to Save Dream Dinners.

I have acted as general counsel to franchisors in my law practice.  From what I have observed, most smaller franchisors do not have experienced managers.  This inevitably turns growth sloppy by allocating too many resources and cash to new franchise sales.  Marketing programs for their franchisees and brand/product development suffer.  Inevitably, the franchise sales process is much longer and more expensive than projected, and ends up monopolizing the franchisor’s time and money.  Sometimes this get worked out (McDonald’s), and sometimes it doesn’t (Quiznos).

Domino’s Subs

As if the sub sandwich category wasn’t crowded enough, Domino’s Pizza is adding sub sandwiches to its menu and delivery service.  The $4.99 oven-baked sub sandwiches will include classic favorites like Philly Cheese Steak and Chicken Bacon Ranch.

The move comes five months after Pizza Hut began delivering baked pasta dishes as well as pizzas. And it will be a wake-up call for sub shops Subway and Quiznos, which find themselves competing with pizza chains.

For the pizza giants, the message is clear: If pizza sales aren’t growing in a sour economy, maybe something else will. Besides the hot subs and baked pasta, some pizza chains also deliver chicken wings.

It’s an attempt by the pizza players to try to get back into being a growth industry,” says Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a restaurant research firm. “They’ve all lost their mojo.”

They also are further conflating a fast-food world that’s grown jumbled. McDonald’s (MCD), Burger King (BKC) and Wendy’s sell salads and chicken. Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts have tried pizza. Arby’s, once roast-beef-only, now makes a killing on Market Fresh deli sandwiches and sells toasted subs.

Domino’s U.S. same-store sales fell 5.4% in the second quarter after a 5.2% decline in the first quarter.

Brandon says the move should boost Domino’s lunch business and expects lots of calls from groups of office workers. (The minimum delivery order is $8 to $10, depending on location, and delivery fees are $1 to $2.)

Rivals are unimpressed.

Pizza Hut delivers hot sandwiches regionally but is focused on growing its national pasta delivery sales, says Brian Niccol, marketing chief.

Tony Pace, marketing chief of the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, says, “Domino’s is watching our success and wondering how to get a piece of the action.”

Half of Quiznos’ locations deliver, and two-thirds will by year’s end, says Rebecca Steinfort, senior vice president.

The trend is clearly delivery to prevent a loss of sales, and online ordering.

Independent Franchisee Associations

baby punditBusinessWeek documented Bhupinder “Bob” Baber founding of the Quiznos Subs Franchise Assn and its litigation soap opera.  The independent franchisee associations of Diary Queen, Subway, and few others are also mentioned along with their individual legal battles with the franchisors.  For example, Dairy Queen franchisees litigated over the new DQ Grill ‘n’ Chill concept, and Subway franchisees litigated over a potential loss of influence over an advertising fund.   Toasted Subs Franchisee Assn members pay $50 per store per year for membership – well worth it in my opinion.

Beef & Salads

Personally, I prefer the Pepperblue Steak Sandwich from Panera Bread. Several chains introduced new beef sandwiches:

But it was the beef sandwiches that debuted in 2006 that seemed the most inventive. In February, Quiznos introduced its Prime Rib and Peppercorn Sub, followed by its Prime Rib Cheesesteak in September. Subway rolled out two premium steak sandwiches of its own, the Blackened Cajun Steak and the Steak and Cheese, in September.

On a related note, here is an article discussing the strategy behind Quiznos’ new salad offerings.

Common Areas of Dispute

Interesting article in the Dallas Morning News highlighting common “disagreement” points between franchisees/franchisors.

This week, Pizza Inn Inc. said it is being sued by former franchisees who say the company, based in The Colony, “intentionally and negligently misrepresented development and operation costs.”

Subway parent Doctor’s Associates Inc. faces two lawsuits filed this summer stemming in part from a fight for control of the brand’s advertising dollars….

Chris Bray, a franchisee of the Denver-based Quiznos brand, complained of what he views as a lack of communication between franchisees and headquarters….

Most [of Quiznos’ disclosed litigation in the UFOC] involve claims the franchisees say were made about exclusive territories or the inability to get their outlets open within the required time.

Hat Tip: Paul Steinberg in the forum

The Friday Franchise Five: I’d Wouldn’t Buy These

I came across a few franchsies that I would not want to own:

  1. Snack-In-The-Box: UK based firm that delivers candy to the workplace (difficult to work and sell)
  2. Nick-N-Willy (founded by former Quiznos exec)/Take-and-Bake: this take-and-bake pizza idea where cusotmer get the raw dough with toppings didn’t catch on 10 years ago, and won’t catch on despite some short-term success driven by PR and unique gourmet toppings. Gourmet pizza that is already baked is where I’d make my bet if I had to enter the pizza business.
  3. The Dinner Station/Meal Assembly (check out the nice store pics): The industry is already seeing a high number of closures; I’d do this perhaps without a franchise
  4. MRI/recruiting franchise: I knew several smart people that tried to make the MRI recruiting franchise work, but had a very tough time generating any placements, and placements from MRI corporate contracts were nil (operating profits and same store sales were down from last year)
  5. It’s Just Lunch: Some locations have been turning over several times each year, with franchisees literally giving them away to escape the cash drain.

Who is looking out for your interests?

quiznos-spray.jpgI was surprised to learn from this article that Quiznos pays commissions to its Florida outside real estate firm, Kotis Properties, to sign up franchisees. Possible conflict of interest?

In addition to helping find sites, Kotis Properties will also be helping Quiznos sign up new franchisees.

It seems this sales practice, along with high pressure seminars, is becoming more common in the franchise industry.

Franchisor Mentions

VERY OUT OF DATE.  Do a search instead.  This was manually updated March 21, 2006

Companies Mentioned in Posts (likely incomplete):Automotive

Business & Home Services

Cleaning & Maintenance

  • none

Computer & Internet (some are listed in “Retail”)

Food and Restaurant

Health & Fitness

Home Building & Repair Services

  • See “Business and Home Services” above

Personnel & Staffing

  • none

Pet Retail and Services

Retail Franchises

Travel & Hotel

  • none

Industry Lists & Research