HOW I GOT STARTED
I graduated from Elgin Academy High School in June of 1982. I graduated second to last in my high school class, so my options for college were slim to none.
Jimmy John's Owner at High School Graduation
"When his academic world was sputtering, Jimmy came to my office in need of direction and purpose. We believed and trusted each other from the start! As our confidence and mutual trust broadened, I noticed in front of me, a gentle giant with an equally big heart. It was so clear to me that if Jimmy channeled his tremendous energy and allowed his instincts to triumph over others' judgments, his achievement would be significant. By following his instincts, he has found his niche of catering to and helping others."
-- Jim Lyons, Elgin Academy Dean for Students
My Dad was a huge believer in the discipline that the Army provides young people. He served in the Army and was stationed in Korea. Both of my brothers served in the Army as well. Military service was a big deal in our household. Naturally, my dad wanted me to enlist after high school, but I really wanted to open a business. My father made a deal with me. He'd lend me $25,000 to start a business, but if it didn't make a profit in the first year, I'd do a stint in the Army.
My real love was Chicago street food, specifically Chicago-style hot dogs, like Portillo's serves. The summer that I graduated high school, I visited many hot dog stands in the Chicago suburbs and created a menu from my research as well as a list of the equipment I would need to open.
Jimmy John's Owner in First Sandwich Shop
I went to the used restaurant equipment district on West Madison Street in Chicago to buy my equipment. I found out that I needed about $45K to open a hot dog stand. My budget was $25K so that was out of the question. I then stumbled on to Booby's Sandwiches in Carbondale, Illinois. When I walked in, I saw a refrigerator, a meat slicer, and a cash register. Way less equipment than the hot dog stand required. From there I switched to sandwiches, and never looked back.
I had to learn to bake bread so I checked out books from the library. I baked and I baked until I got it right. That recipe evolved into the Jimmy John's bread of today. From there I bought deli meats and I started working on a menu.
Why Jimmy John’s?
No soups, no salads, just sandwiches. Our track record is best in class. Our system works. We’ve been doing this for 35 years. We’re one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in America, and we’re rated #1 Best Fast Casual Chain in the U.S. by Money Magazine. Most importantly, people love our food! 2,700 units strong and lots of room to grow.
We define fresh. Our all-natural meats and veggies are hand sliced in-house daily, and our bread is baked fresh all day, every day. That’s how it’s been since 1983. We spend 6 hours slicing and baking every day to make 30-second sandwiches for our customers. With the prep behind us, our system is designed for fast, flawless execution.
Everything about Jimmy John’s is about keeping it simple. We have a very disciplined product, menu and system. No one else is as efficient, effective or consistent as we are in delivering a fresh-made meal for under $20.
We want to be the best, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done!