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Jimmy John’s opens its first drive-thru-only location

The chain, which pioneered the concept of sandwich delivery, has opened the new format in Florida as it looks to evolve its business.
Photo courtesy of Jimmy John's

Jimmy John’s wants to be known for its freaky fast drive-thru.

The sandwich chain, part of the brand operator Inspire Brands, on Thursday revealed its new restaurant format, a drive-thru-only location in Bartow, Fla.

The location has a dual-sided drive-thru with a dedicated pickup lane and carryout lockers for takeout customers. Most notably, there are no seats.

The format “represents our continued commitment to evolve with our customers and serve the best, freshest sandwiches with speed and efficiency,” Andrew Bello, VP of design and architecture at Inspire Brands, said in a statement.

The company worked with the experience agency ChangeUp to help design the restaurant format, a new one for a business that was largely built around walk-in customers and those who ordered sandwiches delivered to their home or work.

The new prototype makes Jimmy John’s only the latest in a growing number of chains taking drive-thru business to a new level as dine-in sales lag. Drive-thru-only prototypes have become increasingly common among fast-food chains, and more fast-casual concepts are pushing those lanes as a way to take advantage of a customer that gravitated strongly to takeout during the pandemic.

For the 2,700-unit Jimmy John’s, the model could evolve the business further. The company’s U.S. system sales declined 8.5% in 2020, during the worst of the pandemic—despite a market that should have been favorable for a delivery chain like that one.

By contrast, rival Firehouse Subs' sales rose 0.9%, and Jersey Mike’s increased nearly 20%.

The company lost one of its bigger differentiators, its “freaky fast” delivery, as rivals jumped onto the third-party delivery bandwagon. Jimmy John’s also lost some business when lunch customers began working from home, rather than in the office—where its catered sandwiches have been popular.

Inspire bought Jimmy John’s in 2019. And more recently the company has been shifting its marketing. It started adding limited time offers last year for the first time in company history and changed the brand’s marketing message. Jimmy John’s launched a new brand identity last year in a bid to get back in front of customers.

The new format builds upon that new identity and promises a “digital-forward approach,” with more options for mobile ordering.

One of the new format’s drive-thru lanes, for instance, is dedicated for mobile order customers. Customers that don’t want to go through that lane can get their food from carryout lockers.

The brand identity features the chain’s signature red color. Its star icons help with wayfinding and the company’s irreverent voice is evident in messaging throughout the location, including its “freaky fresh” motto.

“We knew we wanted to treat this space as an architectural billboard and create a physical manifestation of the Jimmy John’s brand,” Ryan Brazelton, chief creative officer with ChangeUp, said in a statement.

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