Jimmy John’s opens its first drive-thru only

Photo courtesy of Jimmy John’s

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

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

The location has a double-sided drive-thru with a dedicated pick-up lane and take-out lockers for take-out 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, vice president of design and architecture at Inspire Brands, said in a statement.

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

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

For the 2,700-unit Jimmy John’s, the model could further scale the business. The company’s systems sales in the United States fell 8.5% in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, despite a market that should have been supportive of a delivery chain like that.

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

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

Inspire bought Jimmy John’s in 2019. And more recently, the company changed 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 an effort to get back in front of customers.

The new format builds on this new identity and promises a “digital approach”, with more options for mobile ordering.

One of the new format’s drive-thru lanes, for example, is dedicated to mobile ordering customers. Customers who do not want to go this route can collect their food from the take-out lockers.

The brand identity features the chain’s signature red color. Its featured icons help orient itself, and the company’s irreverent voice is evident in messaging across 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, creative director at ChangeUp, said in a statement.

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