Jimmy John Liautaud, founder and CEO, Jimmy John's Franchise LLC, opened his first sandwich shop in a converted gas station in Charleston, Ill., in 1983. Liautaud opened the restaurant shortly after graduating from high school using $25,000 that he borrowed from his father. Over the past 25 years, Liautaud has nurtured his business through the ups and downs of a small start-up operation, and he is now leading it through a growth phase with franchised restaurants. Jimmy John's was awarded the National Turkey Federation's Turkey on the Menu (T.O.M.) award in the quick service restaurant category at the National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago in May.

Jimmy John's now has around 700 sandwich shops in 37 states. The company is scheduled to add a total of 145 restaurants in 2008. Average 2007 annual sales at 14 corporate-owned restaurants was $1,134,667 per store. Turkey has a significant place on the Jimmy John's menu with seven of the 24 sandwiches containing turkey breast meat.

Liautaud was originally interested in starting a hot dog restaurant, but settled on sandwiches when he discovered that he lacked the capital required for the hot dog operation. Fresh baked bread for the sandwiches has been a staple at Jimmy John's since day one. Liautaud developed a menu that features basic sandwiches with fresh ingredients. All of the turkey breast meat, which Liautaud says comes from "many" suppliers, is sliced in the restaurants on a daily basis.

The original Jimmy John's was located near Eastern Illinois University and many of the company's other restaurants are located near colleges or universities. Menus and signs at the restaurants are targeted to a younger audience. Slogans like "freaky fast, freaky good," "Jimmy John's adds to students GPA and general dating ability," and "The official sandwich for people who hate to wait" can be found on menus, order forms and signs in Jimmy John's restaurants and at the company's website (www.JimmyJohns.com).

The delivery difference


The company is branching out from its college town roots. Liautaud describes the typical Jimmy John's location as being in "business districts." One thing that distinguishes Jimmy John's from the rest of the chain sandwich shops is that Jimmy John's delivers. Liautaud characterized the percentage of the chain's business that comes from deliveries as "a lot." Orders can be placed by phone, fax or online.

In the beginning, Liautaud used an aggressive sampling campaign to help build business. He went out and gave away samples of his sandwiches to drive traffic to his store. The company still uses sampling as part of its marketing approach. Jimmy John's is involved as a primary sponsor for 10 races and an associate sponsor for the rest of the season for Rusty Wallace Racing's number 66 car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Liautaud said that his company uses Nationwide Series events as opportunities to distribute samples and the company has held autograph signing events at its restaurants around the time of Nationwide series events.

Other winners

NTF presented Perkins and Marie Callender's Restaurant & Bakery with its T.O.M. Award in the casual/family style restaurants category. Menu items include the Country Club Omelet, the Triple Decker Club, Open Face Turkey Sandwiches and the Heartland Turkey Pot-Pie.

ARAMARK Corporation was named the T.O.M. award winner in the non-commercial foodservice operator category. The company's operations serve education, business and industry, healthcare, parks and resorts, sports and entertainment, correctional institutions, conference centers, convention centers, and senior living. More than 8 million pounds of turkey will be used this year in ARAMARK's units.