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How Jimmy Johns gives me a complete HR experience

Jimmy Johns

Wheat Bread at Jimmy Johns means no more childhood nightmares

Jimmy Johns Insane Staffing

I just had lunch at Jimmy Johns and as an HR Pro/Am, whenever I enter a business I am always checking out the working environment and even when I get a quick bite to eat, the radar is up. 

Jimmy Johns just landed in our South Lake Union neighborhood. Before Jimmy Johns came into the neighborhood, a co-worker was telling me daily about Jimmy Johns. He couldn’t wait for them to come into the neighborhood. He talked about how they were “the s**t” and explained how he wanted to invest in Jimmy Johns. This guy was a true Jimmy Johns FanBoy. I had never heard of Jimmy Johns till then and when he said they make submarine sandwiches, I immediately went into “disregard and dismiss” mode with my signature, wave of the hand flourish. I had a bad experience growing up with submarine sandwiches and to this day have a hard time with Subway, Quizos, etc. Nothing against the franchises, just the sandwiches. Yeah, I can hold a grudge.

Free Sandwiches?

The day Jimmy Johns opened, I heard they were passing out FREE sandwiches. This was all highly unusual, bordering on the suspect. It should have been my first clue that this place was different. Free sandwiches from a franchise? When was the last time you saw the guy who pops out of a box hand out free cheeseburgers? Half the office organized a trip to Jimmy Johns over Skype but I passed. It might have been free but they don’t call it a traumatic childhood experience because it was a stroller ride in the park. 

I caved by the second week, but mainly because there were only 3 places to eat in our neighborhood and 1 is a taco truck.  The taco truck was good till I realized the guy was using the bathroom in our building as his main point of relief and was not washing his hands.  If you don’t know how I feel about bathroom etiquette, then read here.  Washing your hands is not just before meals anymore, it’s prior to the interview as well.    

All I could ask myself is, “What is so great about a fast submarine sandwich?  If you have had one, you had them all.” 

Freakin’ Fast

So I went. Half a block away from the restaurant, I could already see that the line was 20 customers out the door and I am immediately thinking a 30 + minute wait. Do the math. 15 customers out the door, another 10 inside, and even on a good day that is a sandwich a minute and lets not even think about swiping a debit card and waiting for that mess. My buddy reassured me. “Don’t worry, the line goes quick.” Yeah right. I just did the math. I am sure it goes quick, but with 30 people in line, how fast can a sandwich be assembled. There is a fixed cost of time when making a sandwich.

We wait outside for a few minutes and sure enough, this line is moving. It is moving surprisingly fast. I don’t think about how it could be moving this fast, or how many elves they have behind the counter, but we are moving. 

Lesson from Henry Ford

The line moves me through the door and then magically it splits into two informal lines, each going to a cashier and a bank of “rockstar” sandwich makers. Where I would normally see 2 people in a Subway with one person making the sandwich and the other taking the money, there are two lines here. In each line, 1 cashier and 4 sandwich makers! 4 people to touch a single sandwich! Ford, the inventor who made the assembly line famous, the grandfather of organizational development, mass assembly, the division of labor to name just a few would have been proud of these guys. Henry Ford had some poor schlep pull the car with a rope down the assembly line and only offered the Model T in one color to make it the product easier and more affordable. (your HR lesson for the day)   

These guys obviously took a page out of Henry’s book because although they had a dozen different sandwiches, they only came one way and with ONLY two choices of bread.  

Keep the line moving

I paid with my debit card and waited for the transaction to finish. Mentally, I was waiting for the cashier to offer me a receipt. It’s not a receipt I would keep, but the signing of a receipt is the way most places finish a transaction. Nope, no signature required, keep the line moving, please.

By the time I get to the end of the line, my sandwich was waiting for me. Total time elapsed, maybe 2 minutes.

HR brain explodes

What boggled my pea brain HR mind was how many people they had crammed behind the counters working at various stations.  I literally counted 18 employees back there. Granted two of them delivered sandwiches on bikes, but 18 employees at a sandwich place with two cashiers? I quickly did the hourly pay – math in my head. 

18 employees at 12.00 an hour. 216.00 an hour, and I figure these folks aren’t full time so no benefits. There is no fry station, there is no coffee station, there is no ice cream or shake maker. There is a self-serve pop machine. WTF? 18 people to make sandwiches? Not just 18 employees, but these guys all had a hipster vibe. They enjoyed working here. Vendors always say that a uniform will bring pride to a team and working in HR, I get my fair share of salespeople trying to sell us 100% cotton uniforms. These guys sported the black hipster t-shirt with the cool caption in block letters. 


There was banter, there was energy, there were a lot of sandwiches moving out the door. I wasn’t in Subway or Kansas anymore Toto, and yes, I “Freaked”.     

The line moved quickly, the chips were just like I appreciate, thick and crunchy. The best part? I was out of there in less than 7 minutes. The sandwich shop next door that I was going to never saw their door hit my ass on the way out again. My average wait there was 20 minutes and the line was usually only 6-10 people long. 

HR Brilliance

I would have never thought to throw more employees behind an $8.00 sandwich, let alone 18 and I am a professional with a degree in Organizational Psychology. Brilliant!  Fricken’ brilliant!  I probably go there once a week now just to soak in all that HR brilliance.  

They don’t just have a great sandwich, they exude a Jimmy Johns culture and a vibe. They took an 8.00 sandwich and made it cool. I have a common saying I repeat to all hiring managers when we discuss candidates. Cheap, Fast and Good. You can have 2 of the three, but you can’t have all three. Jimmy Johns, you got all three. Paleo diet?  BOOOYYAHHHH!!  They have you covered with the “Unwich”.    

Jimmy Johns

the Unwich

The best part about Jimmy Johns?  They offer every sandwich on an amazing wheat bread, which means I have no reminder of that traumatic childhood experience.   

“Number 9 on Wheat please”,

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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