Jimmy John Liautaud was not given a successful sandwich business; he had to go out and work for it, earn his money, and build up his credibility. The delicious sandwiches created and sold by Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches were a work in progress at the beginning, and Jimmy John Liautaud’s Success in the Food & Restaurant Industry
Jimmy John Liautaud was not given a successful sandwich business; he had to go out and work for it, earn his money, and build up his credibility. The delicious sandwiches created and sold by Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches were a work in progress at the beginning, and Jimmy’s success rate grew over time.
Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches opened shop in 1982 and grew exponentially since then. From 2015 to 2018, Jimmy John’s proved successful by being named in the top 10 Promising Franchises for Ambitious Entrepreneurs and being ranked #1 franchise by Forbes. Let’s learn how Jimmy reached his goals in the competitive food and restaurant industry below.
Jimmy’s First Idea
Jimmy John Liautaud didn’t strive to be the best during his high school years. He wasn’t proud of the academic decisions he had made during his attendance at Elgin Academy School and graduating second to last in Jimmy’s senior class didn’t win him much credit. That didn’t stop Jim Lyons, the dean of discipline, from believing in him.
Jimmy built up confidence to pave a path for his future. In doing so, he sat his father “Big Jim” down to discuss a business startup proposal. Jimmy John requested a $25,000 loan during the conversation, but “Big Jim” had his own side of the deal he wanted his son to live up to.
If Jimmy’s food business failed, he would have to abide by his father’s wishes and enlist into the Army. If Jimmy’s food business succeeded, he would have to share 48% of the businesses’ profits with his father.
Jimmy John was on his way to follow through with his goals.
The Hot Dog Stand
Jimmy pondered a few ideas and finally concluded that he wanted to own and operate a hot dog stand. On his way to becoming a professional, his first move was to conduct a ‘business trip’ to Chicago with intentions on observing how other hot dog stands operated.
Jimmy studied the businesses, wrote down the required ingredients, and gathered a list of necessary equipment. When he was finished tallying the numbers up, Jimmy found that it would take $45,000 to start up his hot dog stand; that was $20,000 less than he had loaned from his father.
Jimmy backtracked and requested an additional $20,000 from “Big Jim,” but the request was denied. That wasn’t part of the deal.
And then …
Now unmotivated and uninspired, Jimmy decided to go visit a friend for the weekend. The two were out to lunch at a local sandwich shop placing their orders when Jimmy started to observe his surroundings. That brought his mind around to the idea of opening a sandwich shop instead of a hot dog stand.
“The restaurant used very little equipment, a refrigerator, a meat slicer, and a cash register. Nothing to it, I thought. New Plan. I can make sandwiches.” And that’s exactly what he did.
The Start Up
Summer fast approached and Jimmy was focused and ready to work. He made sandwich recipe after sandwich recipe until he settled on six solid combinations. Once he mastered the art of creating delicious sandwiches, Jimmy put them to the test with his friends and family.
The taste testing took a few days, and Jimmy was eager to see the results of his creations. Four out of six combinations were favored and added to Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches menu, along with 25 cent Coca-Cola’s.
It was time to finalize the details and open shop. On January 13, 1982, the day after Jimmy’s birthday, he officially opened Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches.
The First Day
With tensions high and expectations low, Jimmy opened his doors to the public. However, not a single customer was intrigued by Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches on the first day. Fortunately, that didn’t curb Jimmy’s motivation.
On the second day of JJ’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Jimmy gathered and distributed a bunch of sandwich samples to his business neighbors. Personally, delivering the samples won crowds over, and within just a few weeks, business started to pick up. After 2 short months, Jimmy was breaking even with his sales.
Jimmy John Grew to be a Successful Franchise Business
Jimmy John’s first year of business brought in $154,000 worth of sales, ending with a $40,000 profit. By 1986, 4 short years after the grand opening, Jimmy had enough money to buy his father out and become the sole proprietor of his business.
Over the next few years, more stores opened, and by 1994, ten stores were up and running. Jimmy had made his first $1 million and the 1st Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches franchise was sold that year.
In 2002, 160 stores in total were open. However, 70 of those stores were failing. Jimmy had no reason to lose hope yet.
Jimmy John knew that struggles would come along with operating the food business in a highly competitive industry. And once he knew that 70 stores were failing, Jimmy knew he had to make changes soon.
So, Jimmy John turned to his entrusted President and CEO of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches in hopes that the two could tackle the problem together. The pair traveled across the country to work single handedly with each franchise. They’re goal was to retrain every owner and every manager on the Jimmy John’s system and procedures. They were successful in their endeavors, and in about 18 months, the founder and president of JJ’s Gourmet Sandwiches turned around 63 of the 70 failing stores.
Tremendous Growth Period
After pairing up with James North and putting Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches on the right track, Jimmy experienced tremendous growth.
In 2007, Jimmy celebrated the grand opening of their 500th store. Just 3 years later, JJ’s Gourmet Sandwiches opened their 1000th location. And nearly four years after that, Jimmy opened the 2000th location.
In October 2019, Jimmy sold Jimmy John’s to Inspire Brands, the parent company of Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, SONIC Drive-In, and Rusty Taco. This move made Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches the 4th largest restaurant company in the United States.
Jimmy John Liautaud was raised to never be selfish and always give back to those in need. Due to his success, Jimmy can give back to his community to better other peoples’ lives.
With earnings from Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Jimmy and his wife, Leslie, set up the Liautaud Family Foundation. This organization helps people help themselves by giving money to charities that help promote and support the military, education, health and wellness, and the arts.
Jimmy has donated several millions to different organizations around the world such as Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association, Camp Southern Ground, Crisis Nursery, and Champaign County Youth Assessment Center.
Jimmy John has donated $1 million to Folds of Honor Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships to spouses and children of the Fallen or disabled service members.
Jimmy is an outstanding role model and successful business founder. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches may have had a slow and weary startup, but the food business proved to grow beyond what Jimmy ever thought it could. Now, because of its success, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches can continue to grow throughout the United States and help people in a variety of ways – including providing scrumptious sandwiches for all to eat!
Learn more about Jimmy John Liautaud here.