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How One Sandwich Company Cracked the Franchise Top 10 A focus on franchisee selection, training and operations helped Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches reach number five on the Franchise 500 list this year.

By Jason Daley

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's easy to get excited about Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches. Walk in to one of the roughly 2,000 shops, and the irreverent signs, unpredictable soundtrack, scent of fresh bread and friendly staff--who really are "freaky fast"--can pep up your day.

But back in 1994, 11 years after he opened his first Jimmy John's in Charleston, Ill., Jimmy John Liautaud was a bit too exuberant about his growing empire--an attitude that he admits led him astray for several years.

"What I assumed at the time was that every person I sold a franchise to would be as enthusiastic about getting up early in the morning and baking bread and custom-making sandwiches and getting a real kick out of it as I did," he remembers. "I started selling to anyone. As long as they had a check and a pulse, I took their money. But by 2000, I realized that our 15 corporate stores were kicking ass, and our 100 franchises were losing money. I didn't understand it at all."

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