- Tim Casey has been named president and CEO of Rego Restaurant Group, a subsidiary of High Bluff Capital Partners and parent company of Quiznos and Taco Del Mar, according to a news release.
- He succeeds Gerry Lopez, who served as CEO and chairman on behalf of High Bluff during the acquisitions of those two brands.
- Casey most recently served as brand lead of Inspire Brands' Rusty Taco. Prior position include president and CEO of PepperJax Grill and president of Qdoba Mexican Grill. He also was a vice president at Starbucks earlier in his career, according to Restaurant Business.
The fate of Quiznos has been in a balance for years. The brand, which once included nearly 5,000 locations in the U.S. and now has just under 400, has fallen out of our vernacular and relinquished its competitiveness in a busy sandwich category after years of franchisee tensions and declaring bankruptcy in 2014. In addition to franchisee tensions and stiff competition, Quiznos' 90% system reduction also has been attributed to a bad business model, the recession and a leveraged buyout, according to Restaurant Business.
All of those factors simply couldn't overcome Quiznos' strength — its toasted sandwiches were once a major differentiator from Subway, as well as a competitive advantage in the category before the explosion of fast casual sandwich concepts.
According to Franchise Times, Seattle-based Taco Del Mar has followed a similar trajectory — with 270 locations in 2008 before the recession hit. Internal issues led to a 2010 bankruptcy and the company now includes about 100 units in the U.S. and Canada.
It'll take an industry veteran with deep experience like Casey to lead these brands through a massive turnaround. It also should help that the newly-formed RRG has the financial backing of High Bluff to make the investments needed to regain relevance. As outlined in the news release, those investments include innovation and additional acquisitions.
Anand Gowda, executive chairman of RRG and managing partner of High Bluff, said in a press release that Casey's appointment comes as the company enters the next phase of its long-term growth strategy, which includes accelerating franchise growth.
"We also continue to see considerable potential to further expand our platform through the acquisition of additional brands that will benefit from our targeted investment approach and integration strategy," Gowda said.
RRG looks to take a page from Inspire Brands' playbook — diversification through the acquisition of a handful of concepts. Multi-brand operators are becoming a bit more ubiquitous in the restaurant space, as they're better able to leverage combined resources to take on industry challenges and help drive turnarounds. Indeed, Casey comes from Inspire's Rusty Taco, where he served as brand head since April.
Casey's priorities are clear — revitalizing and growing both Quiznos and Taco Del Mar, while also adding more brands to the company's portfolio. Lopez has teed the ball up for Casey, telling Franchise Times in July that the store count for the two brands has reached a level of stability.
"The precipitous decline is largely behind us," Lopez said. "Now it becomes a question for new prototypes and new opportunities for growth."
Despite its many issues, Quiznos still has a strong relationship with the consumer, Lopez told Restaurant Business.
"The one element of this brand that doesn't get talked about or noticed is its relationship with the guest," Lopez said. "That has remained through it all and is largely intact."
If there is a sign of life for the brand that Casey can capitalize on, it is these consumers.