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Jimmy John’s founder shares more than snappy quotes


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The founder of Jimmy John’s delivered plenty of colorful quotes—his trademark—during his keynote address at the Franchise Finance & Growth Conference.

Jimmy John Liautaud

Jimmy John Liautaud, the founder of Jimmy John’s, kicked off the conference.

“We have a huge focus on managing millennials,” said Jimmy John Liautaud, referring to the sandwich chain’s youngest generation of employees. “Millennials are the kids who want to know you gently smother your chickens before you turn them into turkey sandwiches.”

But he also described less flashy aspects of his $2-billion operation, crediting them in part for the brand’s growth.

No. 1, business coaches visit every Jimmy John’s unit every 42 days, he said. “The visit goes like this: They arrive at 8 in the morning and they stay all day. At lunch they look around the restaurant and see what they can fix. After lunch they fix it.” (They even bring paint and tools to take care of simple repairs.) “Any store that scores less than 85 percent, the same day by 8 that night I have a corrective action in place that goes to five people.”

No. 2, to best attack new markets, franchisees and corporate operators alike open stores at the same time, and they all help each other as needed. They tried the approach in Phoenix five years ago, Liautaud said, where they now have more than 50 stores, and average unit volumes rose higher than the chain’s as a whole. The team approach has become standard operating procedure. “We’re just blowing up L.A. right now, doing it exactly the same way,” he said.

He wrapped up his talk in colorful fashion. “January was brutal. Spank, spank, spank!” he said about the start of 2014, and restaurant operators in the audience nodded knowingly in agreement. “I thought it was over; I thought my scam was up.”  But by February, he said, all was well.

 

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