Just when you think you know Jimmy John’s, you really don’t.
This iconic sub delivery chain, once the go-to choice for students and stoners everywhere, has its own fair share of facts and trivia ready to be discovered. Are you ready to fill your brain with this fascinating information? Here are all of the juicy secrets behind Jimmy and his sandwiches.
10. From Humble Beginnings
Jimmy John’s didn’t exactly start out as the mega sandwich king that it is today. In fact, it has one of those origin stories where something really came from nothing. At the young age of 19, founder Jimmy John Liautaud decided to start a business. His military veteran father wanted him to go into the amy, but that wasn’t what he saw for his future. So, they made an agreement: his father would give him an investment of $25,000 to open a business, and if he wasn’t successful within a year, he’d join the army. Young Liautaud really didn’t want to join the army, so he really had to make this business idea work. His original idea was to open a hot dog stand, but he soon realized that was out of the question financially. The costs of operating were too high for what it was worth. So, what did he do? Finding inspiration in a nearby sub shop that essentially just sold subs and beer, an idea began to click in his mind. The beer was too expensive to sell, but he could definitely pull off sandwiches with the money he had. So, he purchased an extremely basic place in Charleston, Illinois- we’re talking nothing but a meat slicer, a fridge, and an oven. There wasn’t even enough cash for an ice maker, so people had to deal with room temperature drinks (or bring their own ice cubes). He reportedly chose the area because he had cousins that attended university there, so he knew the area was teeming with hungry college students. The food was clearly worth it. With just four sandwiches on the menu, Liautaud began catering to the late night bar crowd in the area and engaging in super low-budget marketing tactics such as handing out free subs on the streets. Advertising campaigns were definitely not an option. Slowly but surely, the business took off, and, well, you know the rest.
9. Drew Brees is The Biggest Jimmy John Fan… Ever
While there are tons of celebrities out there who have publicly expressed their love for certain fast food places, Drew Brees has to take the cake. The New Orleans quarterback is obsessed. He is also very public about his obsession, and may be the biggest fan of the restaurant in the history of the franchise. When he was studying and playing football at Purdue University, he had his first taste of a Jimmy John’s sandwich and it was an instant love affair. From there, he spent many of his lunch and snack breaks chowing down on the famous sandwiches and began to realize he simply couldn’t live without them. He reportedly loved the #9 Italian Night Club so much that he chose it as his jersey number when he got drafted into the NFL. Yep, you read that right. One of the NFL’s highly successful, Super Bowl winning quarterbacks is rocking the number of his favorite sandwich at Jimmy John’s. Now, Brees is a proud owner of several Jimmy John’s franchises and plans to open quite a few more. Jimmy John’s isn’t Brees’ only foray into the world of restauranteering, either. It seems to have opened some doors for him and given him a taste of the industry. In addition to the Jimmy John’s locations, Brees and his wife also co-own multiple Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar locations in Louisiana, and recently announced that he was also opening five new Dunkin Donuts locations in the state, with plans for that to turn into many, many more. There seems to be no stopping this guy, even though he’s still actively playing football on the side.
8. Jimmy John Never Even Had a Business Plan
If there’s anything they teach you in business school, it’s that you always need a business plan. Liautaud clearly didn’t listen to that. Even to this day, he still says he’s never made one because he never expected it to become as huge as it is. Now, he’s sitting happy, as he was named one of the wealthiest people by Forbes last year. He claims that, throughout the rise of the sandwich empire, he did his own accounting and made sure that all of his debt was paid off as soon as he could. A total of 10 stores were opened in the first 10 years of business, so he was opening roughly a store per year. To his credit, putting a sandwich shop smack dab in the middle of bars in a college town was a pretty genius decision and is probably the major reason for his rise to success. He claims that it’s all just the aftermath of a system that really worked out in his favor, so don’t expect to be studying this case study in your business class anytime soon. However, it should be noted that Liautaud sold off the company and only owns a 35% share, so since it’s run by a big corporation it’s very likely that there is definitely a business plan now. In 2016, Roark Capital Group (who also have investments in other fast food joints like Carl’s Jr. and Arby’s) purchased a majority stake in Jimmy John’s. Liautaud still has the largest individual ownership share for a single individual, but he’s no longer the only man in charge.
7. It Wasn’t All Glorious
At one point, Liautaud had to do some major damage control when a large number of the restaurant locations were starting to fail. While expansion happened steadily, he began to franchise his stores. In 2002, there were 160 total locations in the United States, but 70 of those stores were failing. We’re talking almost half of the stores nationwide. At that time, Liautaud himself only owned 10% of the stores under the corporation. But it’s all a learning process. Liautaud stopped selling stores for a year and focused on bringing those stores that were struggling back up to their glory days. He realized that the people who were buying the franchises weren’t really prepared to put in the hard work and dedication that he had been doing for so many years already. Ultimately, Liautaud used this situation to create stricter, more explicit rules for people who wanted to buy a Jimmy John’s franchise. This would make sure that anyone running the stores from now on were highly qualified and aware of the tough work that they’d have to put in. So, by putting eager franchise buyers to the test, he was able to get things back on track and continue down the road to expansion. To this day, there are over 2,000 Jimmy John’s locations in the United States and future plans to expand internationally.
6. It’s All in The Details
From the moment Liautaud began to franchise his sub shop, he made sure that there was a consistency for all locations. All of the details, down to the placement of the sinks, were standardized. Jimmy John’s prides itself on avoiding artificial ingredients, using fresh produce at every store. The bread is baked in house daily, and they have publicly spoken about their dedication to using local farms and businesses for food supplies in each restaurant. Their dedication to freshness has actually backfired at times, because in the effort to keep things as fresh as possible, the chain has very small delivery zones from each store. Some restaurants will only deliver five minutes away, and they don’t use any third party delivery apps, like Skip the Dishes or Uber Eats, because this can affect the freshness and timing of the delivered goods. Of course, that’s led to some backlash from upset customers who don’t live close enough to qualify for these quick delivery services. Every single head of lettuce is shredded to 3/32 of an inch for even more consistency. Speed for making the sandwiches themselves is also a key. According to Liautaud, all of his employees at his restaurants can make a sandwich in exactly 60 seconds.
5. Making a Dying Man’s Last Wish Come True
In 2012, Jimmy John’s got some major karma points. A man named John Marmaud, who was a huge Jimmy John’s fan, was dying of cancer and wanted one last taste of his favorite tuna sandwich before he passed. His wife, Jeannie, wanted to make it happen but she didn’t have a car and the couple lived outside of their city’s delivery zone. She was even ready to walk and meet them wherever the zone ended. Luckily, she didn’t have to do that. After she frantically called the store and told them the situation, Jimmy John’s agreed to make an exception to get the food to him. When the delivery driver showed up, she refused to take Jeannie’s money. John died a few days later, and Jeannie later said that this was likely his last real meal. Speaking of being the good guy, this isn’t the only time the restaurant chain did a good deed for someone. In 2018, a frantic woman from Florida called a Nebraska location mistaking it for her very sick brother’s social worker. Her brother, who was very sick and had recently gone through spinal fusion surgery, was undergoing a medical emergency and needed a ride to the hospital as soon as possible. She was trying to call the social worker to take him when she got Jimmy John’s instead. However, instead of hanging up on her and telling her she had the wrong number, the employees at Jimmy John’s sent over one of their drivers to pick up her brother and take him to the hospital.
4. No Stranger to Sparking a Media Frenzy
Liautaud has come under fire by the media, animal lovers on social media, and animal rights activists because of his other love aside from sandwiches: trophy hunting. As many of us are well aware, especially after the controversial killing of Cecil the Lion, this is something that can get you an unfavorable popular opinion. This past week, an image circulated of Liautaud posing with an elephant that he’d shot and killed circulated around social media and ignited a firestorm of angry feedback. However, this is not the first time this has happened. Back in 2015, photos circulated of him posing with dead elephants, rhinos, and even a leopard from a 2010 African safari hunting trip. According to those who helped circulate the images, these weren’t the only ones in existence, either. Each time these photos have circulated on social media, they’ve sparked people calling for boycotts of the restaurant.
3. The Secret Menu
Most fast food lovers are well aware that their favorite chains always have those secret items only the pros know about. Jimmy John’s is no exception. There are a few specific sandwiches you can get, but only if you ask for them. If you love meat, you’ll probably be into the Gargantuan. It’s basically a giant pile of meat on your sandwich, including salami, roast beef, ham, and capicola. There’s also the Noah’s Ark, which is essentially just double of everything in the sandwich. And if you want a BLT, but mostly just love the bacon, you can get Slim BLT, which is essentially a B without the L and T. So, that’s just a slim sub with approximately six pieces of bacon. Oh, and mustard lovers will be happy to know that there’s a small, not-so-secret menu hack for them. Most of the subs just come with Dijon mustard, but if you ask for it, you can get packets of regular yellow mustard. They don’t have a wide variety readily available because they have a super speedy reputation to hold, but you can still get your plain ol’ mustard if you want it.
2. Speedy Delivery Has Sometimes Come at a Cost
That super quick delivery service we mentioned a few times has backfired on the company a couple times in the past after causing accidents that led to lawsuits against them. It’s known as their “freaky fast” service (they’ve even sponsored some Nascar drivers in the past to get the point across), but at times, it’s also been freakishly tragic. The first incident was in 2011, when a Jimmy John’s delivery truck hit a 19-year-old man riding a motorcycle in Las Vegas. Ty Cirillo, the motorcyclist, suffered severe injuries and was told he would never be able to walk again. Two years later, in 2013, a West Virginia Jimmy John’s delivery truck hit a 79-year-old man who did not survive the accident. The man, Robert McClain, was walking his dog at the time. Sources at the time said that the truck was going very fast, and reports state that the driver was looking at the clock, not on the road, when he hit the man. His daughter ended up suing the restaurant chain for not putting enough emphasis on safety with their speedy delivery. Most recently, in 2018, woman driving a Jimmy John’s delivery truck hit a 5-year-old boy who was riding his bicycle in Wayland, Michigan. Unfortunately, the boy died. All of these incidents have caused some people to label the speedy delivery service as leading to reckless and dangerous driving, causing a damper on their reputation.
1. A Non-Compete Clause Caused a Controversy
In another bout of negative publicity, Jimmy John’s got some bad press in 2016 due to a non-compete clause that they reportedly made all of their employees sign in their contract when they were first hired. The clause stated that no employee would be allowed to work at a competing sandwich shop or deli within a specific radius of that Jimmy John’s location. This clause not only applied to them while they worked at Jimmy John’s, but also for two years after they left. When word got out about this, many states actually took the sandwich icon to court, arguing that this clause was restricting to employees and locked people in low-wage jobs. After spending some time in court, Jimmy John’s finally agreed to remove the clause from their employee contracts. They also agreed to donate $100,000 toward education programs that would help people learn more about and understand what non-competing clauses really meant.