How Quiznos Develops Sandwiches

A Day in the Life of Zach Calkins, Quiznos Innovator

Zach Calkins is Senior Vice President of Culinary Innovation at sandwich chain Quiznos, where he tracks food trends and develops new products for the sandwich market. Here's what he did on Monday, July 18.

6:30 a.m.: I got up, made a latte, and let Hazy, my labrador, out. I started thinking about the day, what I had to get done. I fed Hazy, and was out the door by 7:30, heading downtown to the corporate office on my bike.

7:45 a.m.: It was a big product showing day in the office: I had to present to the team what we're going to be doing for September and October, based on consumer research and studies we'd conducted online.

If we're going to bring in a new product, our vendors need eight weeks to get everything made and into our 2,600 stores. Yesterday was the drop dead date. I finalized my recipes and the prep list for my team to get ready.

Keep reading to learn about the new menu items Zach's been creating for Quiznos.

8:30 a.m.: Since I'm going out of the country for two weeks (I leave for France tomorrow to go on vacation), I worked on my action plan for Brian, one of my research and development coordinators. I have a couple of test stores going on right now, where I'm testing next-generation products: putting more quality in the sandwiches, whether it's natural chicken, natural turkey, or black angus roast beef instead of our current roast beef. We're raising the bar on these products; Brian's got a lot to do to make sure we don't drop the ball on anything.

9:15 a.m.: I had an international meeting. I'm getting ready to go to Brazil, and Quiznos doesn't have any locations there yet, but there are newly trained franchisees, so I'm going to meet with our master franchisee and talk to some local vendors. We talked about what cities I'm going to visit, and tentatively what the menu's going to look like there.

11:00 a.m.: I had a product "cutting" of a newer pulled pork product that's in Quiznos right now. We're looking at secondary vendors who can come in and support the primary pulled pork vendor. That way we have backup plans in case something happens at one plant and we can't obtain any pulled pork. I showed Brian how to access my recipes in case any recipe and costing tweaks have to happen, and he needs to resubmit them to operations, quality assurance, our purchasing group, marketing, and communications.

12:30 p.m.: I went over to one of my test stores, and tried everything on the line. I taste all the individual proteins, cheeses, and dressings, to make sure everything is fresh. Yesterday I tried the lower-sodium dressings and light mayonnaise, some new proteins. It's like doing a line check in a fine dining restaurant: you want everything to be consumer-ready, the texture has to be right.

1:30 p.m.: I met with Chris Ruszkowski, our vice president of marketing, on the menu board layout. Chris and I are continually making changes to the menu boards, because it's rather inexpensive to print them, then we put them up in test stores to get consumer feedback on whether it's easy to read, if customers can still find their favorites, whether they understand what a grilled flatbread panini is, and so forth.

2:30 p.m.: I met with some vendors. I had a couple chip vendors who were trying to get natural chips into the Quiznos system. I talked them through the hurdles we're up against, educating them on what they have to go through if they want to sell chips at Quiznos. I explained to them that we're a Frito-Lay company, so as much as I would have loved to test their chips, we have an obligation to Frito. I followed up over the phone with vendors on other projects I'm working on.

6:00 p.m.: I left the office and went to Whole Foods. I shop for each day, because I don't like to buy a lot of stuff. I bought halibut cheeks, and black radishes and fennel.

7:30 p.m.: I prepped dinner. My prep time and my cooking time is when I catch up with Christy [Zach's wife, pictured above].

8:00 p.m.: We had dinner, which was the seared halibut cheeks and a black radish and fennel slaw. We talked about my day, her day, and our trip to France.

8:45 p.m.: We have a deal — I cook, and Christy cleans — so I hung out with her in the kitchen while she was cleaning up. We were talking strictly about France, and what we were going to do when we got to Paris, what the first couple of days of the trip would look like.

11:30 p.m.: I was in bed — lights out.

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