In 1971, a small shop on South Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas was home to a single, one-of-a-kind sandwich. Don and Dolores Dissman opened the first Schlotzsky’s with only one product – an 8-inch muffuletta stuffed with three meats, cheeses, lettuce, tomato, olives, and dressing served on hot freshly-made sourdough bread. Modeled after the muffulettas they discovered in an Italian grocery store in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the Original® sandwich (at the low price of $2.95) was an instant hit!
The uniquely named company – called Schlotzsky’s for no particular reason – quickly became a favorite in South Austin. Targeting hungry college students, the Dissmans decided to open their second restaurant in Dobie Mall just a few years later. In 1977, the couple began franchising their unique concept, and Schlotzsky’s quickly became a Southeastern favorite.
By 1981, the company had 100 franchise restaurants. That same year, the Dissmans decided to retire from the sandwich business, so they sold the company to Austin real estate investors, John and Jeff Wooley and Gary Bradley. A year later, Bradley split with the Wooleys when he took the real estate business and the Wooleys kept Schlotzsky’s.
Under the Wooleys’ direction, Schlotzsky’s menu expanded to include specialty pizzas, toasted wraps, freshly tossed salads, gourmet soups, Panini, and other items. In 1988, Schlotzsky’s introduced their Fresh-from-Scratch® products to Canada – the first restaurant outside the U.S. In 1995, the Wooleys took the company public on December 15, 1995, trading as BUNZ on NASDAQ until 2004, the same year that Bobby Cox Companies came on board. Under new ownership and management, Schlotzsky’s spent two years strengthening its franchise operations and reinvigorating the brand. On November 17, 2006, the company was purchased by FOCUS Brands, which has brought stability and continued efforts to expand the brand and clearly define the concept’s niche and overall identity.
In 2008, Schlotzsky’s began co-branding with sister company Cinnabon by including by including the Cinnabon Classic Roll and other select Cinnabon items inside Schlotzsky’s restaurants under one roof. The following year, the company began an extensive reimage project with the opening of its first “Lotz Better” prototype in Waco, Texas. In 2010, the brand reinvention was launched, which is literally and figuratively “All ‘Round Lotz Better,” and includes the Waco prototype design featuring vibrant colors, playful slogans, contemporary furniture and artwork. The company also introduced a new service model where crew members hand-deliver food to the tables.
The brand reimage was completed in 2011, the same year Schlotzsky’s celebrated its 40th birthday with a national $1.99 small The Original® special. The menu was revamped and Panini sandwiches were discontinued and fresh, made-to-order salads were added. In 2012, the company proudly celebrated seven consecutive years of positive same store sales growth. JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) was announced as the company’s corporate national cause and through a systemwide promotion, collected more than $150,000 for the organization.
Today, Schlotzsky’s operates more than 350 franchised and corporate restaurants domestically and abroad as end-cap, drive-thru, stand-alone, in-line, and co-branded locations in high traffic venues such as shopping plazas, malls, food courts and airports. From Texas to Turkey and plenty of places in between, the aroma, quality, and freshness of Schlotzsky’s products never change. And thanks to the brand’s extensive variety of goods and services, the brand continues to earn well-deserved attention:
● Ranked #142 by Restaurants & Institutions magazine in the Top 400 Chains for 2008: ranked at #138 for 2009;
● Proclaimed #75 in Fast Casual magazine’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers list for 2007; listed at #94 for 2008; listed at #52 for 2011;
● Ranked #181 in Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 in 2009; listed at #247 in 2010; ranked #137 in 2013;
● Selected as one of the Top 50 Franchises for Minorities by USA Today in 2011;
● Since 1982, has sponsored the Schlotzsky’s Bun Run, Austin’s longest-running 5K, which hosts a current average of 5,000 competitive runners and raises an average of $50,000 annual for the Austin YMBL Sunshine Camps.