This Franchise Chatter guide on the Jimmy John’s menu was written by Sherman Morrison.
At age 19, Jimmy John Liautaud didn’t look like he had much going for himself, having graduated high school second-to-last in his class. In 1983, his father gave him two choices for what to do with his life – either join the military or start a business. He chose to go the business route, accepting a $25,000 loan from his father to get started, with Jimmy John owning 52% of the business and his father 48%.
After exploring the idea of starting a hot dog business, the expenses made him switch to sandwiches instead. He rented out an old garage for $200/month and outfitted it with what little used equipment he could afford – a refrigerator, chest freezer, meat slicer and oven. He took the time to really perfect his bread recipe and took advantage of being near Eastern Illinois University and its many hungry college students.
Ten years later, he started franchising the business and now has nearly 2,000 locations around the country, with hundreds more in development. His business model is clearly working, but what about the Jimmy John’s menu from the customer perspective?
Jimmy John’s Menu
First of all, the fact that the company’s name is actually Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches is a bit of a misnomer, which Jimmy himself admits on the PDF menu available on the website. But if by gourmet you mean fresh, then the Jimmy John’s menu is all over that. Everything that goes into their sandwiches is sliced and prepped fresh each and every day right there in the store, which means no dull brown edges or soggy refrigerator taste.
Because Jimmy John’s menu prices may vary from place to place, the focus here will be on the quality of the food. For those who were not introduced to Jimmy John’s during their college years, your first time can be a bit disconcerting. In those cases, what really stands out with the Jimmy John’s menu is not so much what is there as what is not there, which frankly is a lot.
This is a sandwich shop that does not offer hot or oven-baked sandwiches, so if you’re looking for that toasted sandwich effect, you’re not going to get it at Jimmy John’s. The other thing you’re not going to get from the Jimmy John’s menu is any variety when it comes to cheese. Provolone is the only option, so if you’re a fan of different kinds of cheeses on sandwiches, Jimmy John’s might not work very well for you.
Your sandwich is also not going to come already cut in half, which can make it a bit difficult to handle. You can ask for it to be sliced, but there’s no guarantee that it will actually happen!
What’s on the Menu?
So what is on the Jimmy John’s menu? One definite highlight is the bread. It’s all baked fresh daily in the store, and just about everyone agrees it’s a better sub roll than you get at Subway. It’s baked French-bread-style, so it’s slightly crispy on the outside and very moist and chewy on the inside. Note that on many of the sandwiches, they scoop out a bit of the sponge in order to make room for sandwich ingredients. That, along with a firm side hinge, is why Jimmy John’s sandwiches do hold together very well without falling apart.
The same holds true for its inch-thick 7-grain traditional bread, which achieves a level of heartiness that most chains simply cannot match. The 7-grain bread can be had on their club sandwiches, although you have to specifically ask for it, otherwise you’re going to get your club sandwich in a sub roll, which is a real disconnect for many people.
Another good thing that’s often noted is that Jimmy John’s seems to get the mix of meat-cheese-fixings-bread just right. The ratio of these items is optimal, such that you don’t typically find yourself wishing there were more of one thing or less of another. That does not hold true, however, for condiments. Jimmy John’s is pretty notorious for overdoing it on the mayo.
Ordering a Plain Slim sandwich from Jimmy John’s is all about having the right level of expectations, which in this case should be pretty low in order to avoid disappointment. I’m not even going to provide specific reviews of these different sandwiches, because it’s a literal case of what-you-see-is-what-you-get. In other words, if you order a Ham & Cheese Plain Slim, what you’re getting is their sub roll with some ham and provolone cheese and that’s it. No veggies or other toppings of any kind, although you can request mayo and mustard packets. Here are your Plain Slim options:
- Plain Slim 1: Ham & Cheese
- Plain Slim 2: Roast Beef
- Plain Slim 3: Tuna Salad
- Plain Slim 4: Turkey Breast
- Plain Slim 5: Salami, Capicola, Cheese
- Plain Slim 6: Double Provolone
8-Inch Sub Sandwiches
These six sandwiches include 8 inches of homemade French bread, fresh veggies and good-quality meats and cheese. This is where you can get stuff on your sandwich in addition to the meat and/or cheese. Be forewarned, however, that Jimmy John’s does not deviate from what’s described. You can ask to hold off on something, but you can’t add anything extra (except as noted).
Luckily, the sprouts are optional, which is important given that Jimmy John’s has had more than its share of run-ins with E. Coli breakouts from sprouts. In fact, they’ve had major problems with people getting sick just about every year since 2010.
Also, while everyone raves about the avocado spread, most people say the lettuce, although fresh, ends up being too sloppy with the mayo or other condiments added.
So hold the sprouts and here’s the run-down on these sandwiches:
- #1: Pepe. Real wood-smoked ham and provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- #2: Big John. Medium rare choice roast beef, mayo, lettuce and tomato.
- #3: Totally Tuna. Fresh house-made tuna mixed with celery, onions, and a tasty sauce; sliced cucumber; lettuce and tomato (sprouts optional).
- #4: Turkey Tom. Fresh sliced turkey breast, lettuce, tomato and mayo (sprouts optional).
- #5: The Vito. The original Italian sub with genoa salami, provolone, capicola, onion, lettuce, tomato and a tasty Italian vinaigrette (hot peppers by request).
- #6: The Veggie. Layers of provolone cheese separated by real avocado spread, sliced cucumber, lettuce, tomato and mayo (sprouts optional).
Rounding out the sub sandwich lineup are two that don’t quite fit the previous categories. The J.J.B.L.T. is what you might expect, a BLT that comes on their sub roll. For many, that just feels wrong. A BLT is supposed to come on toast, right? Well, maybe you’ll discover that you like it on a sub roll.
The Gargantuan is named such that you think it’s a bigger sandwich than the others, which it is in terms of what’s inside, but it’s all still jammed into an 8-inch sub roll.
Also notice that the Unwich has no bread, but you’re still going to pay the same price as a regular sandwich on bread. And since bread is one of the things people consistently highlight that’s really good on the Jimmy John’s menu…well, you get the point.
- J.J.B.L.T. Bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- The J.J. Gargantuan. Jimmy John’s calls this one the original “gutbuhstuh,” and with good reason. Genoa salami, sliced smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey and provolone in a homemade French bun with onions, mayo, lettuce, tomato and a homemade Italian vinaigrette.
- The JJ Unwich: Low-Carb Lettuce Wrap. Same ingredients and price of the sub or club without the bread.
Giant Club Sandwiches
Loaded with twice the meat or cheese, these can be had on fresh-baked, thick-sliced, 7-grain bread or homemade French bread. The same sloppiness with the lettuce and condiments applies to these sandwiches as well, and is a significant barrier for many that keeps them from enjoying what would otherwise be a decent sandwich.
Remember also you have to ask for that 7-grain bread or it’s going to come on the sub roll.
- #7: Smoked Ham Club. Includes a quarter-pound of real wood-smoked ham, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- #8: Billy Club. Roast beef, smoked ham, provolone cheese, Dijon mustard, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- #9: Italian Night Club. Genoa salami, Italian capicola, smoked ham and provolone cheese all topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo and a homemade Italian vinaigrette (hot peppers by request).
- #10: Hunter’s Club. Includes a quarter-pound of medium rare roast beef, provolone, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- #11: Country Club. Sliced turkey breast, real wood-smoked ham, provolone and tons of lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- #12: Beach Club. Fresh-baked turkey breast, provolone cheese, avocado spread, sliced cucumber, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- #13: Gourmet Veggie Club. Double provolone, real avocado spread, sliced cucumber, lettuce, tomato and mayo (sprouts optional).
- #14: Bootlegger Club. Roast beef, turkey breast, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- #15: Club Tuna. The same as the #3 Totally Tuna, except this one has a lot more. House-made tuna salad, provolone, sliced cucumber, lettuce and tomato (sprouts optional).
- #16: Club Lulu. Sliced turkey breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
- #17: Ultimate Porker. Real wood-smoked ham and bacon with lettuce, tomato and mayo.
If you’re ordering a sub or club sandwich and any of the following are not already included in the description, you can ask for them to be added: Onion, lettuce, tomato, mayo, sliced cucumber, hot peppers, Dijon mustard, yellow mustard, oil and vinegar, oregano, sprouts.
Finally, the Jimmy John’s menu is rounded out with the following sides: Soda, chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookie, real potato chips, jumbo kosher dill pickle, extra load of meat, extra cheese, or extra avocado spread.
What Makes Jimmy John’s So Successful?
Now at this point, you may be wondering how can a sandwich shop be so successful with such a limited menu and odd practices? There are several things you have to keep in mind about the Jimmy John’s menu – one is their primary target demographic, which is the college student crowd. Jimmy John’s popularity is huge in that segment, and among those recently graduated who want to get back a piece of that collegiate nostalgia.
When you think of your typical college student who’s hungry and wants to chow down on something as quick as possible, they’re simply not concerned about such frivolities as having a hot sandwich or going through all the build-your-own rigmarole that other places go through.
The other nice thing about catering to the (typically poor) collegiate scene is that Jimmy John’s menu prices tend to be pretty cheap if you stick to the Plain Slim selection. Then again, with that line of sandwiches, you’re not getting much bang for the buck.
Another thing to keep in mind is the Jimmy John’s motto: “Sandwiches so fast you’ll freak.” And this is where Jimmy John’s really does shine. If you walk in and order a sandwich, chances are that it will be ready either before you’ve pocketed your change or before you can fill your drink cup. That really is freaky fast.
But that freakish speed does come at a cost. After all, how else could they make sandwiches as fast as they do? Something has to give.
That also explains the rigid approach to each sandwich’s formulation. Jimmy John’s has taken the time to figure out what goes together well in its different sandwiches so that you don’t have to and, perhaps more importantly, their sandwich makers don’t have to either. The less they digress from the formula, the faster they can make the sandwiches. And Jimmy John’s really is all about the speed.
So as long as you can live with cold sandwiches and little to no deviation from a sandwich’s ingredients as listed, Jimmy John’s just might work for you.
Any analysis of what Jimmy John’s gets right must include their unique ability to make deliveries freakishly fast. Subway doesn’t deliver, and many other sandwich shops don’t either, so Jimmy John’s has a distinct competitive advantage there. The chain has definitely nailed the “speed” factor in making its sandwiches, and it carries that right through to delivery.
Be forewarned, however, that their delivery boundaries seem very arbitrary, so you can find yourself less than a mile away from a Jimmy John’s and yet they might not deliver to you.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the blaring music that plays alarmingly loud in each store, the volume of which may not be adjusted down by order of corporate headquarters, as freakish as that seems. It probably works for the college crowd, but most post-collegiate people are turned off by it.