Investors Moving ‘Freaky Fast’ to Buy Jimmy John’s?

Update 4:30 p.m. September 24: Jimmy John’s announcement Wednesday that it had experienced a data breach was an unusual bit of bad news for the chain, which has seen strong sales and unit growth in the past decade.

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches is in the news with recent speculation that ownership may be looking to sell a major stake in the company. Reports indicate that there are many potential buyers exploring the company to determine whether it could be a worthwhile acquisition. Since its founding by Jimmy John Liautaud in Charleston, IL, in 1983, Technomic has tracked the chain closely and watched as it succeeded in carving out a solid brand identity over the past three decades.

Having originated in the same town as Eastern Illinois University, Jimmy John’s has continued to build up a strong brand loyalty with younger demographics, including college students. Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics data shows that the brand attracts a diverse clientele, but skews most to Millennials and males.

Jimmy Johns Infographic

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In terms of attributes, one of the core differentiators for Jimmy John’s is its “freaky fast” service that appeals to time-rushed patrons. The chain also emphasizes friendly staff and affordable price points. These attributes help Jimmy John’s stand out among a competitive set that includes Subway, Jason’s Deli, Firehouse Subs, McAlister’s Deli and Jersey Mike’s Subs.

Let’s take a look at some of Jimmy John’s other attributes:

  • Offers a relatively small and easy-to-execute menu
  • A dedicated value positioning includes quality ingredients such as bread baked fresh in-house daily
  • Strong takeout, delivery and catering component
  • Unit sizes are 600–1,800 square feet, affording the chain the flexibility needed to open in smaller and nontraditional locations
  • A commitment to the environment includes using reputable, eco-friendly suppliers
  • Open kitchens showcase ingredients and preparations, with stock items in full view
  • Americana artwork and quirky, humorous sayings create a playful atmosphere
  • Established a solid franchising system within the fast-casual segment
  • Freestanding units also frequently offer drive-thru service

These characteristics have aided Jimmy John’s in climbing Technomic’s Top 500 ranking. In fact, Jimmy John’s has successively moved up in the rankings every year over the past decade—climbing from the #201 spot in 2003 to #37 in 2013.

Historical sales and unit totals also show steady growth. In 1999, Jimmy John’s had 140 shops and generated sales of $74.9 million. By 2013, those figures had ballooned to more than 1,800 units and sales of nearly $1.47 billion.

With the fast-casual segment hotter than ever, there is still ample room for further growth in the U.S. as consumers continue to seek out restaurants that provide the combination of convenience, value and quality offered at a chain like Jimmy John’s. Looking forward, we expect Jimmy John’s sales and unit growth trajectory to continue to climb as the chain further strengthens its presence, including more expansion near colleges and universities and busy urban areas with strong lunch traffic.

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Laura McGuire

Laura McGuire is the Senior Content & Editorial Manager at Technomic Inc. in Chicago. She is responsible for writing and editing content for the company’s newsletters, which cover the Canadian, U.S., U.K. and BRIC foodservice markets, as well as for planning and managing newsletter production. She also oversees quarterly reports on menu trends and the convenience-store sector and manages the editorial content of Technomic’s Digital Resource Library, a searchable online database that includes vital segment and industry data on leading U.S. and international restaurant chains.

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