20 Things You Didn’t Know About Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John’s is a popular sandwich restaurant chain that is appreciated for their fast delivery services. It’s a restaurant with an interesting past that started out small and became a sensation rather quickly. We’ve discovered some interesting facts about the business and even if you’re a regular there, here are 20 thngs about Jimmy Johns that you probably didn’t know.

1. Jimmy John’s is franchise based

The business model that Jimmy John’s is a franchise based operation. By 2014, they switched to this model and it’s estimated that of all the locations that they currently have open throughout the United States, 98% of them are franchise-owned. This means that if you meet the qualifications for becoming a Jimmy John’s franchisee, you could open up your own sandwich restaurant and become a part of this giant chain that serves America.

2. It’s named after the founder

Jimmy John’s is named after the man who founded the business. He’s Jimmy John Liautaud. Jimmy John didn’t perform particularly well in school. While he didn’t graduate at the bottom of his class, it was close. He was the second to the last when he graduated from Elgin Academy in 1982. His father gave him two choices. He could either open his own business or join the military. Jimmy John chose to open a business and this is how he made the decision to start Jimmy John’s.

3. Jimmy Johns was started on a shoe string budget

The young Liautaud didn’t have a lot when he first started out. His father was gracious enough to front hi $25,000 to work with so he started off his entrepreneurial career with a hot dog business that he had 52% ownership of and the rest belonged to his father, who had sponsored him. The hot dog business wasn’t going to make a profit and it became apparent soon after he started, so he decided to open a sandwich shop instead. Jimmy John’s was officially launched in 1983 and it started in a Charleston, Illinois garage. Liautaud rented the space he needed for $200 a month and he began the business with a meat slicer, a chest freezer, a refrigerator and an oven.

4. The first year was successful

The young entrepreneur had made the right choice in choosing the sandwich business. Although it was initially setup in a poor location to do business, the sandwich shop turned a profit in its very first year, which is an amazing accomplishment. Her served the crowd who lived in dorms at Eastern Illinois University and gave out free samples to draw in more customers. While most new businesses are not profitable for the first few years, Jimmy John’s came out with a positive balance.

5. Jimmy John advanced to full owner

Liautaud was able to buy out his father’s share in the business by April of 1985. This was remarkably, just two years after he launched the business. He was now the sole owner. Business was so good that he was able to open a second restaurant in Macomb, Illinois. His third store opened in Champaign, Illinois in 1987. This showed how quickly he was able to expand his new business and it stood as a testimony that placing near the bottom of your class in school doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful in life. All Jimmy John Liautaud really needed was a little financial boost in the form of a stake. He was able to figure it all out from there and he did so at an early age.

6. Jimmy John found a mentor

Even though he had already opened three successful sandwich shops in different towns in the state, he knew the value of seeking the opinion of an expert. He met Jamie Coulter in 1988, who became his mentor in the business and taught him the basics of running multiple stores effectively. It couldn’t have come at a better time because Jimmy John was at a critical point in his career and if he wanted to continue to grow his business he would need to know more about how to proceed from here. Coulter later became the Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon CEO and he had the business know how to properly instruct Liautaud.

7. Prior to franchising

Jimmy John’s was continuing to thrive and to bring in a profit and Liautaud as able to open more locations. He did so on his own, retaining full control and ownership of each location until 1994. It was at this point that he made the decision to open the expansion of the business up for franchising. Before doing this, he had designed a prototype that would allow him to ensure that each Jimmy John’s location would remain standardized and carry on the traditions that were originally intended. This was necessary if he wanted to continue to build the brand and maintain consistency across all of the locations. Jimmy John’s expanded through franchising through 2002 and Liautaud took a break from selling franchises for a full year so he could support the stores that weren’t doing well.

8. Expansion into the Pacific Northwest

Jimmy John’s originally started in the state of Illinois. They opened their first franchise store at the Eau Claire, Wisconsin location. The Mt. Pleasant, Michigan store was also a franchise location and it opened in 2001 as the 100th Jimmy Johns to open its doors for business. Within six years, Jimmy Johns would open its 500th store in the city of Seattle, Washington and three years later, when they opened the Beaverton, Oregon store, it became their one thousandth location to open in 2010. The sandwich franchise that had started out in a rented garage space had grown to become a giant in the retail sandwich industry.

9. They tripled their growth from 2007 to 2017

Remarkably, Jimmy John’s continued to grow and expand through its franchise based expansion and from the time that they opened their 1000th location in Beaverton, Oregon in 2007 to March of 2017, there were nearly 3,000 locations opened and in operation. When talking about the success, the company shared that it wasn’t through yet. They had plans to achieve the goal of reaching the 5,000 mark for operations and then moving beyond that.

10. Liautaud took on a partner in 2007

Jimmy John was under no illusions about his skills or his limitations and he was smart enough to know that to grow any larger, the company needed to acquire better locations for the stores. He didn’t have a working knowledge of the real estate industry, so he joined forces with a company that did. He sold a 33% share of the business to Weston Presidio which is a private equity firm based out of San Francisco. He partnered with the group and within a single year after the agreement they closed 100 real estate deals to improve the locations of the stores that were not set up in the most ideal locations.

11. There was a social media controversy calling for boycotts

In the summer of 2015, a controversy broke out over a trip that Jimmy John Liautaud had taken to Africa. He went on a big game hunting trip and animal rights activists were up in arms about it. They called for a boycott of all Jimmy John’s locations and circulated pictures of Liautaud posing with his prey. It was a brief sensation that resulted in Liautaud giving an interview with a journalist from the Chicago Tribune and making the statement publicly, “I don’t hunt big African game anymore.”

12. In 2016 controlling interest went to someone else

Jimmy John’s made the announcement in September of 2016 that the majority of the stake int he company would be acquired by the Roark Capital Group. Liautaud kept a 35% share of ownership in Jimmy John’s in the deal and the rest was bought by the new investor. Liautaud remains the largest individual shareholder in the company and he also continued on with the company as the chairman of the board of directors.

13. Jimmy John’s had labor relations problems in 2010

In 2010, there was an attempt by the Industrial Workers of the World to unionize ten locations in Minneapolis. It was rare that this kind of effort would happen within the fast food industry. In 2017, employees challenged Jimmy John’s policies. Some employees challenged the sick leave policy of a franchisee and showed disloyal conduct. The workers attacked the product of the company in opposition and when the case went to court the ruling went against the employees and supported the right of Jimmy Johns to fire employees who engaged in this type of conduct.

14. Jimmy John’s landed in court over policies

In 2014, it was brought to light that the company was requiring their employees to sign a two year non-compete agreement and this was set as a condition of their employment. They were not allowed to work for a competitor of Jimmy John’s for two years. They defined the prohibited employers as any business that brought in ten percent of their revenue from selling sandwiches within a distance of three miles of any Jimmy John’s restaurant. This was challenged in court in lawsuits filed by the Attorney General of Illinois and New York on the issue. The company has settled the lawsuits and agreed to remove the non-compete agreements from the paperwork for new hires. They also made it clear that noncompete agreements were not a part of their business model nor a part of their culture.

15. Jimmy John’s is a generous business

The restaurant chain giant has a heart for the local communities that they serve and the people that live within them. They make it a point to donate to worthy causes across a wide range. Jimmy John’s made a donation of $125,000 to support the Youth Scholarship program for the Champaign Parks Foundation in November of 2016. They also donated over 100 laptop computers to the Unit 4 School District in Champaign to do their part to support the education and development of local children in 2015. Jimmy John’s also made a donation of $1 million to support the Folds of Honor Foundation in September of 2014. The foundation provides support for the families of disabled American soldiers as well as the families of those who were killed in action.

16. Jimmy John’s has received multiple awards and recognition

Jimmy John’s is a business that has gone over and above in maintaining high quality products for its customers. Their efforts have not gone unrecognized nor unrewarded. They were named as the second most popular restaurant for business meals by Certify, an expense reporting program. They were also named as one of the 10 promising franchises for ambitious entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur.com in 2015. They were recognized again with the acknowledgement for enticing Roark Capital Group as the new owner of the company in a deal that was noted as one of the most remarkable private equity agreements in the restaurant business of all time, winning Franchise Times Deal of the Year award. They were Entrepreneur’s 2016 Franchise 500’s number one ranked business in 2016 and they were acknowledged by YouGovBrandIndex as a restaurant with high millennial brand loyalty with 83% of customers stating that they would return again.

17. CNN Money named Jimmy John in their ten “Great Franchise Bets.”

They earned the distinction because of the fact that the annual sales for a franchise average $280,000 with the highest coming in at $1.2 million. If you’re looking for a profitable franchise, they’re right up there at the top.

18. Everything is made by hand daily

The freshness of the food that you get is second to none. Every Jimmy John’s location insists on providing all natural meats without artificial preservatives. Their bread is baked fresh in house and after it’s just 4 hours old it is sold as Day Old. They make everything by hand and slice everything fresh. It’s been this way since Jimmy John Liautaud first opened his doors for business back in 1983.

19. Jimmy John’s supports issues of world health concerns

In 2017, the company took an interest in helping out with a variety of worthy causes. They made a donation of $100,000 to a sub-Saharan African charity that offers HIV/AIDS medications to these communities. They did so through the EAT RED SAVE LIVES campaign. They followed up with an $80,000 donation used to pay off all of the Christmas layaways in Savoy, Champaign and Urbana Walmarts in December of 2018, which gave customers in these areas a big boost.

20. Jimmy Johns is into sponsorships

Here’s a fun fact that most people are not aware of. The company was a major sponsor of NASCAR from 2007 through 2010. They’ve sponsored drivers suh as Steven Wallace, Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress and the Stewart-Haas Racing Team. They also sponsored the Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 in 2014. The business has also sponsored other events such as the RCH Factory Racing Supercross including top contender Ken Roczen. They also serve as sponsor of the Boston Red Sox, the Detroit Red Wings, the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros, the St. Louis Cardinals and many more.


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