Recently sold Jimmy John’s introduced the Little John on Tuesday—a skinny mini version of any of its seven Original sandwiches, including the Vito, the Turkey Tom, and the J.J.B.L.T.—for $3. It’s the first permanent value addition to the 2,800-unit sandwich chain’s menu in its 36-year history.
“Everything our customers love about a Jimmy John’s sandwich can be found in the all-new $3 Little John,” said John Shea, chief marketing officer at Jimmy John’s, in a statement. “The combination of high quality ingredients—all-natural meats, hand-sliced veggies and fresh-baked bread—paired with a $3 price point makes the Little John an incredible value.”
The $3 Little John is available at participating Jimmy John’s locations across the country and for delivery by a Jimmy John’s delivery driver or rider and will be supported by a national advertising campaign featuring Grammy-winning recording artist, Lil Jon.
“What better way to launch our new Little John than with Lil Jon? He was already a Jimmy John’s fan, so we bought a little ad for our little sandwich on Lil Jon, and we’re excited to have some fun celebrating this sandwich together,” Shea added.
The launch of the $3 Little John punctuates a busy year for the sandwich chain after doubling-down on its commitment to never authorize third-party delivery services to deliver sandwiches, launching the “Frenchie” sandwich to highlight ingredient preparation, and even buying someone a house in a Jimmy John’s delivery zone just to bring them a sandwich.
On September 25, the brand also announced it was being acquired by Inspire Brands, the umbrella company behind Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, fast casual Rusty Taco, and Sonic Drive-In. The deal (financial terms were not disclosed) made Roark Capital Group-backed Inspire the fourth-largest restaurant company in the U.S. with 11,200 restaurants and $14 billion in annual system sales.
Also, the move signaled a shift in leadership as founder and chairman Jimmy John Liautaud stepped down as chairman to become an adviser to the company. James North, Jimmy John’s president since 2004 and CEO for the last five years, will serve as president and report to Inspire CEO Paul Brown. Liautaud opened Jimmy John’s when he was in college at Eastern Illinois University in 1983.
As noted, 2019 has been a more rapid year of change for Jimmy John’s than usual. The “Sandwich Delivery Zones,” campaign in March represented the largest national marketing push to date. It included TV, digital, and out-of-home ads targeted to customers within their store’s “delivery zones.” Jimmy John’s dedicates a team to mapping out these “delivery zones” around each store to make sure they’re within five minutes of the restaurant. The 13-inch, limited time Frenchie was Jimmy John’s first grab-and-go sandwich in its history and came just weeks after the company said it would never use third-party platforms to deliver food.
On that note, the company commissioned a study through the Boston Consulting Group to discover whether third party was worth pursuing, the company said. The $13 billion third-party food delivery market is projected to grow at a blazing 13.5 percent annual rate, according to Pentallect. It found that 13 percent of consumers have used a third-party restaurant meal delivery service and 6 percent a grocery delivery service in the past 30 days. So the delivery segment is, essentially, mainstream now. Third-party food delivery service revenues are expected to effectively double in the next five years. That 13.5 percent rate is almost five times the total food industry mark.
However, Jimmy John’s said it’s data showed customers are becoming “increasingly dissatisfied with third-party delivery services.” And Jimmy John’s didn’t want to absorb the customer experience tradeoff.
According to the in-store survey, 35 percent of customers who have used third-party delivery said they had experienced a problem with their orders. Seventy-six said the restaurant was, at least partially, to blame for the errors. Ninety-two percent said they expect food deliveries within 15–30 minutes of placing an order. Jimmy John’s added the largest delivery services average close to a 50-minute delivery time.
The sandwich chain has offered delivery since first opening in 1983. As a company, Jimmy John’s employs about 45,000 drivers at its 2,800 or so locations.
Jimmy John’s launched a campaign around this news as well.
Jimmy John’s has been one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the U.S. in recent years. The brand had system sales of $780 million in 2010. By 2018, it hit $2.1 billion, or 174 percent growth. There were 1,130 restaurants nine years ago, marking 148 percent growth to last year’s 2,803 locations.
Jimmy John's was the fourth largest sandwich chain in America at the end of 2018 in terms of U.S. systemwide sales (in millions), according to the QSR 50. It trailed just Subway ($10,410.34), Panera Bread (5,734.63), Arby's ($3,886.90), and Jimmy John's ($2,200.00). Jersey Mike's was next at $1,148.48. Jimmy John's added 48 restaurants in 2018 from 2017.