Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Jimmy John's

Jimmy John's is a sandwich chain launched by James Jimmy John Liautaud in 1983 in an old garage in Charleston, Illinois. Impressively, Liautaud was only 19 years old at the time. The restaurant joined the franchise game ten years later. Since then, Jimmy John's has grown to include over 2,700 restaurants. The Sandwiches at Jimmy John's are made-to-order, and the delivery is "freaky fast." Can't do bread? No problem. Jimmy John's also offers "unwiches," or wrap sandwiches, making the menu more accessible to those with various dietary restrictions.

Jimmy John's success has not been without controversy. In 2011, photos of Liautaud hunting big game animals circulated and were met with outrage. Photos resurfaced again in 2019. Some of these depicted Liautaud hunting endangered animals. Many called for boycotts of the Jimmy John's restaurants. The restaurant chain has also received scrutiny for requiring its employees to sign non-compete agreements and for allegedly harassing franchise employees who wanted to unionize.

Amidst all these controversies and the brand's long history, you may be wondering, what's it like to really work at Jimmy John's?

Jimmy John's employees need to be quick

Jimmy John's "freaky fast" delivery promise is great for hungry customers, but one former employee cautioned that the fast-paced environment could lead to "panic attacks" in workers. Conversely, another former employee wrote that the quick pace of the Jimmy John's helped avoid the unhappy alternative of boredom. 

Jimmy John's assembly line structure helps workers build sandwiches quickly: Rather than employees putting together sandwiches individually, each person is part of one step in the assembly process. For example, one person is in charge of the bread, the next individual handles the meat, while another worker bags the completed order. Each person on the assembly line is trained on every part of the system; hence, employees can be swapped out as needed without interrupting the line.

Speed is also the reason that Jimmy John's doesn't offer toasted subs: According to an ex-employee, each sandwich must be completed within 30 seconds, and toasting the bread may take longer than half a minute.

Workers need to have a lot of stamina

Jimmy John's offers a manager-in-training position that trains employees to become assistant managers. Stamina is one of the requirements of this job, and it entails having the endurance to work 50 to 60 hours each week. These kinds of hours can be a lot to take on, particularly given the fast-paced work culture.

A former manager-in-training described shifts as lasting 12 hours or more and a sometimes overwhelming amount of responsibility. An ex-assistant manager, who held the position for four years, admitted to working seven days a week for a six-month stretch with zero time off. 

A former assistant manager surmised that the high-speed expectations led to a high turnover of employees. A former delivery driver who worked the job for three years said that the staffing issues could lead to burnout. A different former delivery driver said that the location they worked at was often understaffed and admitted to feeling overworked. 

Workers can make $100 in tips per day

Employees behind the counter are technically not supposed to accept tips, although not every employee working in-store turns down tips. After all, some customers are inclined to reward hard work and good service. 

While tips may be discouraged for employees working behind the counter in the shop, tips are still customary for sandwich delivery drivers. One former Jimmy John delivery driver claimed on Glassdoor that it is possible to take home $100 in tips depending on the size of the area's population: This reviewer was from Fargo, North Dakota, which has a population of 126,375.

A delivery driver reported making $20 or more in tips per hour during a lunch shift. A former driver posted on Indeed that drivers generally make good money, but this can vary by season. Another driver pointed out the usefulness of having cash in your pocket at the end of the day.

It's an excellent starter job

The length of the shifts at Jimmy John's varies greatly depending on position, availability, and franchise location. The shifts tend to range between three to 12 hours in length. The minimum age for employment with the chain is 16 (higher for drivers), making this a convenient place for high school students to work. One cashier reported that a 16-year-old employed at Jimmy John's is legally allowed to work 16 to 25 hours per week. 

A satisfied former employee who worked at Jimmy John's while in high school described their first job at Jimmy John's as being an introductory job suited to and designed for kids. They also pointed out the potential for job growth and promotions: Jimmy John's is often willing to train employees for higher positions. The drivers and managers at Jimmy John's are generally older. Younger employees can also learn new tasks and valuable life skills from management.

The dress code is simple and comfortable

The dress code at Jimmy John's is casual: Employees are given a brand visor and T-shirt. Pants and shorts are allowed in both khaki and denim materials. Leggings are not allowed. Footwear with closed toes is also required for safety reasons. Some employees wear thermal long-sleeved shirts or hoodies under their required Jimmy John's logo T-shirts: Such minor variations are up to the management or franchise owners. And, of course, clothing worn for religious reasons is allowed.

The dress code has changed over time: The original dress code specified acceptable jeans colors and also did not allow visible tattoos. A dress code released in 2015 allowed for tattoos but stipulated that they should be "tasteful" and that neck and face tattoos are not acceptable. The change in tattoo policy was likely influenced by a popular campaign on that was signed by 8,945 people.

Drivers are reimbursed for mileage

A person applying for a delivery driver job may be wondering whether they will be reimbursed for gas. In the case of Jimmy John's, the answer is yes; however, this reimbursement only applies to automobiles, not bicycles or skateboards.

As of 2022, the IRS' recommendation for standard business mileage rates is 58.5 cents per driven mile, an increase from 2021's 55 cents. Employers are not required to follow this model, and each shop may reimburse at a higher or lower rate. One Jimmy John's driver reported in 2020 that they were paid .40 per mile in 2019. 

However, some delivery drivers assert that the rate of compensation is not quite an adequate level of payment. Even with the reimbursement, the base pay is too low for some drivers, and the reliance on tips can prove to be quite unreliable; consequently, the gig simply isn't worth it for many drivers. 

Employee experiences vary by location

Approximately 98% of Jimmy John's locations are franchises, which introduces an extra variable to the mix in terms of customer experience. Franchise owners tend to vary in terms of their ideas regarding running a business. Some owners are bound to be more hands-on than others. The work environment and culture tend to vary by location too. 

A former part-time cashier in Ann Arbor, Michigan, really enjoyed their time at Jimmy John's and felt supported by management. Meanwhile, someone who worked for three different shops (unspecified locations) said that their experience was different at each store. 

A delivery driver who worked at a shop in Hoffman, Minnesota, reported great collaboration between team members and mentioned that the lengthy shifts and fast pace left them feeling fatigued. An assistant manager in Arvada, Colorado, suggested Jimmy John's was a good place to try out being a manager and learn leadership skills.

Part-time workers have a good work-life balance

As previously mentioned, the length of shifts tends to range somewhere between three hours to 12 hours in length. Multiple general managers reported working an average of 10 hours per day. But for cashiers and sandwich makers, an average shift was generally four hours long.

According to a former manager in Arlington, Washington, working a 12-hour day meant they had no life outside of work. They also felt restricted by company policies. An employee in Greenville, South Carolina, echoed this sentiment, saying they had to adhere to the given schedule and were asked to come in on days they weren't scheduled.

On the other hand, supervisors and managers in South Carolina and Colorado said that they always made an effort to work around the needs of the employees while creating schedules. A delivery driver and another employee agreed that working at Jimmy John's was a flexible part-time job that worked around their full-time school schedules.

Delivery drivers maintain their own vehicle

Delivery drivers at Jimmy John's are expected to provide and care for their own vehicles. They must also have a good driving record and keep their cars clean. Jimmy John's does not provide its drivers with auto insurance, which may be another expense. And while automobile delivery drivers are reimbursed for miles driven, this may not be sufficient compensation due to fluctuating gas prices. 

In 2013, Scott Lewis, a delivery driver from Wichita, Kansas, sued Jimmy John's franchisee Bushwood Investments L.L.C. He claimed that the company was not providing appropriate compensation to drivers for using their personal vehicles for business purposes. Lewis and another driver, Grant Fergus, brought the case together on behalf of themselves and other plaintiffs. Their case claimed that drivers were being compensated a flat fee of 25 cents per delivery regardless of distance rather than being paid by the mile. The two parties came to a settlement agreement in 2015.

Sick time may require a doctor's note

In the U.S., there is no federal law mandating sick leave for employees. Instead, this is left up to the individual states to decide, and the rules vary greatly. In 2021, a Jimmy John's franchise in Minneapolis, Minnesota, paid $17,000 in back pay to employees who were not provided with sick leave.

However, a shift manager and former assistant manager reported on Indeed that their locations (in Iowa and Nebraska, respectively) didn't offer sick time. Employees who are on a fixed schedule need to get time off approved by a manager or covered by another employee. 

A delivery driver in Kansas said that a doctor's note was required to avoid being written up. After two write-ups, an employee would be fired. Other employees in different locations mentioned an accrual system for accumulating sick time. Employees in some locations were assigned 10 vacation days, and any sick time taken would be deducted from this allotted vacation time.  

Benefits vary by franchise and location

Jimmy John's health insurance benefits do receive positive reviews on Glassdoor. A former Delivery Driver in Des Moines, Iowa, reports opting for a different health insurance option after hearing that Jimmy John's benefits were not so great.

A general manager in Columbus, Ohio, explained that benefits were the responsibility of the franchise owners rather than the Jimmy John's company; this worker also mentioned that the benefits themselves left much to be desired. 

Vacation time also varies greatly by location. A general manager in Nebraska reported receiving one week of vacation time per year. A general manager in North Carolina said that each franchise had a different policy in terms of vacation time.

A Wisconsin catering manager claimed that only general managers were given vacation leave. An assistant manager in Missouri agreed, saying they received no vacation time. However, an assistant manager in Nebraska said that the policy was seven days of vacation for an employee's first year and 14 days for the ensuing years.

Workers may smell like sandwiches

Jimmy John's bread is baked fresh on-site; additionally, Jimmy John's guarantees that the bread served will never be more than four hours old. When you enter a Jimmy John's restaurant, the enticing aroma of the bread permeates every location: This is why Jimmy John's advertises "free smells." Consequently, employees working in this kind of environment are likely to end up smelling like sandwiches as the scent seeps into their uniforms. 

Food smells aren't the easiest smells to get out of fabric. Although there are several effective methods of eliminating food odors in clothing such as freezing the fabric or using baking soda, each method takes time. Cleaning this clothing may not be worth it, especially if the same shirt needs to be worn again the next day. 

Putting on clothes that have been removed from a 24-hour stay in the freezer would be uncomfortable, to say the least. For many employees, working at Jimmy John's means simply accepting smelling like a sandwich.