How Delivery Gave Jimmy John’s the Competitive Advantage the Brand Didn’t Know It Needed
How Delivery Gave Jimmy John’s the Competitive Advantage the Brand Didn’t Know It Needed

The sandwich chain made delivery a part of its DNA long before the trend took over the restaurant industry.

A few years ago, it was nearly impossible to find a sandwich chain that could compete with Subway. When the brand rolled out its “Five Dollar Footlong” campaign during the recession, it instantly became one of the most successful promotions in the history of the entire restaurant industry. But now that the economy has gotten better and consumer preferences have changed, other sandwich chains are starting to take away bigger pieces of Subway’s market share.

“Consumers want more quality for the same amount of money,” said Mark Kalinowski, a restaurant industry analyst at Nomura Securities in an interview with CBS News.

One of the brands that’s able to offer consumers just that is Jimmy John’s. The brand has carved out a unique niche for itself in the booming sandwich industry—by focusing on cold subs that can be made and delivered in less than 10 minutes, Jimmy John’s offers something that its competitors don’t. But when the brand was first starting out, delivery wasn’t a part of its business plan.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Jimmy John’s founder Jimmy John Liautaud said, “Delivery was never a strategy. Delivery was really survival.”

The first Jimmy John’s location wasn’t in an area that people would naturally stumble upon, so Liautaud started marketing his sandwiches by taking samples door-to-door in college dorms. That then fueled his delivery business, which is now a strategic part of the brand’s marketing and messaging.

Known for being “freaky fast,” Jimmy John’s has built its entire reputation around delivering quality sandwiches straight to people’s doors. It’s able to do that because of the simplicity of its menu—the brand’s sandwiches are served cold and made up of different combinations of six meats, one cheese, vegetables and two types of bread.

Jimmy John’s positioned itself at the forefront of sandwich delivery before it became the necessity and trend it is among consumers today, ultimately putting it in a position for rapid growth. The brand has also kept its competitive edge against the industry’s other major chains by being an early adopter of easy online ordering along with a mobile app.

It’s clear that the brand’s tech friendly model and convenient approach is a hit among consumers—in 2015, Jimmy John’s saw sales jump 17.2 percent from the year before to $2.02 billion. The brand was also named the number one franchise in Entrepreneur’s annual ranking of the top 500 franchises.

But despite that success, Jimmy John’s is sticking to its small town roots. Even though the brand prepared for an initial public offering, Liautaud decided to pull back. He said he wanted his focus to remain on building the Jimmy John’s brand instead of playing in the world of Wall Street.

“Could we grow faster? Yes. But I don’t want to be the biggest. I want to be the best at what I do,” Liautaud told the Chicago Tribune.