For Jeff Sinelli, the passion and the entrepreneurial spirit behind Which Wich has always been about the vibe. In fact, the leader of the global sandwich brand prefers the title “Chief Vibe Officer” to that of “Chief Executive Officer.” If you spend time with Sinelli, you’ll understand why – and it’s that same vibrant approach to business that has attracted franchisees and helped grow the brand to more than 400 locations around the world.
Sinelli is always thinking three steps ahead as the head of the Which Wich empire. For instance, in 2017, as a way to shake things up and tap into a stronger creative energy, Sinelli is eschewing the typical restaurant and franchising consultants and partnering up some of LA’s strongest musical entrepreneurial minds to help improve the Which Wich model, menu, experience and more.
This type of bold, outside-the-box leadership also comes with a strong commitment to the men and women that work at the company’s headquarters in Dallas, as well as those that work in the franchise locations across the U.S. and internationally.
“I’m not satisfied with status quo. I never have been,” Sinelli said. “The Which Wich team is made up of women and men who aren’t afraid to take the leap and know that passion and commitment is going to lead to success.”
The idea of the “Leap” has been a rallying cry and a motivation for Sinelli ever since he came across a painting by David Dalla Venezia depicting a man taking a leap across a void. However, the roots of Sinelli’s entrepreneurial passion run deeper.
The son of an entrepreneur, Sinelli’s road to business ownership started like many--with a lemonade stand. With the backdrop of the industrious Detroit skyline, Sinelli grew up in a constant search for big ideas and ways to get his foot in the business world for himself. It started with bars and soon he had devised the idea for Genghis Grill, now the largest Mongolian grill franchise concept in the world. However, after selling the company, Sinelli was looking for the next, longer-lasting chapter. A fan of sandwiches since childhood, and with the idea that he could introduce an improvement on the bland sandwich concepts he felt dotted the industry, he created Which Wich. The idea caught on even before an actual restaurant was open, and Sinelli soon found himself needing to create the skeleton and flesh out what his dream would look like in reality. Fittingly, he opened the first Which Wich in an old Subway and things took off from there.
But it’s one thing to venture out on your own in business. It’s an entirely different accomplishment to instill trust in others and inspire them to join you in the vision.
“I respect the fact that so many people have seen the Which Wich brand and decided that they want to be a part of it,” Sinelli said. “It’s important as the leader of the company to project the enthusiasm I truly have for what we have created and what we can become. It’s always a joy to gather the entire Which Wich family together at our conference every other year and share success stories, talk about ways to continue improving, and really celebrate the brand and the impact it’s having on so many lives in so many areas of the country. It’s a humbling experience, and it fuels me to keep making strides to grow and improve as a brand, but also as a CEO and personally.”
The Which Wich conference is coming up in April 2017. One of the highlights of the biannual event is the company’s “Black and Yellow Ball” where franchisees, corporate employees, the executive team, vendors, family and friends eat, drink, dance and celebrate – all while wearing the signature colors that have become synonymous with the Which Wich brand.
The distinctive colors are just one way that Sinelli has helped build a sense of team and buy-in from those who join Which Wich. The importance of a uniform was something he learned the value of during his days playing lacrosse at Michigan State University. Early on, he knew that he wanted his brand’s yellow and white colors to unify the team.
“It’s such a simple thing, but it can mean so much in both building that collaborative spirit of teamwork amongst our team members at Which Wich. It also is a constant reminder that we’re all in this together, and just like in team sports, you always want to excel in order to drive the team’s success,” Sinelli said.
But the uniforms at Which Wich aren’t coming out of corporate executives’ pockets. As part of their benefits, they receive a $500 allowance for clothing and two pair of comped Which Wich shoes. It’s part of his philosophy of creating a cohesiveness that will move everyone in the same positive direction. As the brand closes out a successful Q1 and looks ahead to the rest of 2017, the direction is looking bright for Sinelli and his team.
“It’s a beautiful feeling to wake up every morning energized and excited about how I can continue this mission that we set in motion more than a decade ago, and continue to follow the Yellow Brick Road!” Sinelli said.