Nothing like a nice toasted sub sandwich, called a grinder by my friends on the east coast. Quiznos built a business on it. Trouble is, when a toasted sandwich is all that stands between you and the competition, your position of toasted becomes toast. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Quiznos is preparing to file for bankruptcy.


It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that one of the sub places was going to go sooner or later. Subway has done an effective job carving out the “healthy, eat fresh” (hold the mayo) position in the market . Jimmy Johns touts “freaky fast,” as in fast sandwich making and delivery. The reality is that if you’re going to thrive in a market, your competitive advantage needs to be built from capabilities that’s difficult for competitors to emulate. Capabilities are competitively relevant activities performed with key resources. Examples include Walmart’s point-of-sales data analytics, eBay’s alignment between software developers and marketers, Nike’s brand management, Marvel Comic’s repurposing of content and Nerf’s product development.

Putting a sandwich on a conveyor belt toaster is not necessarily rooted in deep, differentiated capabilities. Ask yourself the following three questions for your business:

1. What are your group’s top three capabilities?

2. What evidence supports these as being comprised of competitively relevant resources and activities?

3. What are the top three capabilities of your most dangerous competitor?

How differentiated are your capabilities from your competitors? A little food-for-thought could go a long way.





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