Jimmy John Liautaud is the owner and founder of Jimmy John’s Sandwiches, who opened the doors to his first sub shop in Charleston, IL on January 13, 1983.
After graduating second to last in his high school class, Liautaud knew college was not for him. With a $25,000 loan from his father to open up a business, he chose to open a sub shop.
Liautaud’s beginnings in the shop shaped the company culture and his own recipe for future success. He had to overcome large odds and frequent obstacles in the beginning: this time he developed many of the processes in the shop that employees still use today. Liautaud also got to know his customers extremely well. He memorized their names and sandwiches and always aimed to please them. When hiring his next manager, Liautaud took the toughest stuff for himself, giving the easier items to the manager, the opposite of what he first imagined being an owner would be. He learned that by serving his manager and setting him up for success, he could better serve his customers. Eventually, Liautaud moved to Macomb, IL to open a 2nd store, and then Champaign, IL for store #3. In 1994, Liautaud began franchising.
Jimmy John Liautaud Helps Struggling Franchise Owners
Fast forward 8 years later to 2002, when Jimmy John’s had 160 stores open, some of which were struggling. The 20 stores Liautaud owned and operated were successful, but to improve the strength of his brand, he stopped selling franchises and refocused on struggling stores. He stopped selling franchises for one year, and visited struggling stores. He supported and helped them turn around. It was tough, but it also helped Liautaud reset expectations for existing franchisees, and raised the standards under which he would approve future franchisees. The 500th Jimmy John’s opened in 2007, the 1,000th in 2010, and in the fall of 2014, Jimmy John’s reached 2,000 stores.
In 2012 Liautaud was awarded Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain Award for his industry achievements and outstanding accomplishments. Today Jimmy John’s is one of the fastest growing chains according to the NRN Top 100.
Liautaud lives authentically and transparently, setting achievable and measurable goals for his team, and championing his people and brand. Taking the hardest tasks for oneself, coming in early, staying late, and leading by example: these aren’t just catch phrases at Jimmy John’s, this is how we make it happen. The Jimmy John’s team is held accountable and rewarded when they succeed. We share the profits.
Those are some pretty humble and hardworking beginnings for a chain that now has over 2,000 locations across America. But the company is just hitting its stride. The goal isn’t to be the biggest, Liautaud wants it to be the best! As the business grows, he will not compromise on quality. Quality is a way of life at Jimmy John’s - from the food, to the work ethic Liautaud instills in his team and franchisees: If you aren’t going to do things first class, don’t do them at all. We rock, our team rocks, you rock. America rocks. Let’s all keep rockin’.
Jimmy John Liautaud's Philanthropic Work
Outside of Jimmy John’s, Liautaud has spent many hours mentoring and coaching young entrepreneurs and various restaurant and business operators all over the country. Most recently, Jimmy donated $1 million to Chicago's Becoming a Man (BAM) mentorship program to support Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's initiative to reduce violent crime in the city. Liautaud also donated $150,000 to help build a local rail trail in the Champaign area. He has supported many organizations such as Folds of Honor Foundation, dental clinics, schools, and many other community organizations and has given both time and money to support their missions. He’s a patriot who loves to serve.
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UPDATED: November 16, 2016