Jimmy John's Goes International

For the first time ever, Jimmy John’s sandwiches are crossing borders.

After 40 years of freaky fast sandwich-making in the U.S., Jimmy John's has decided to take its cold cuts global. The chain's parent company, Inspire Brands, has just signed two franchise agreements that will expand the business across both the Northern and Southern borders into Canada and Latin America.

"For 40 years, Jimmy John's has taken a straightforward approach to making ridiculously good, quality sandwiches and it's now time to share them with the world," said Michael Haley, President & Managing Director, International for Inspire Brands, in the announcement. "In a global restaurant environment where simplicity is paramount, we're confident this brand is primed for extensive international growth."

One of the franchise agreements is with Foodtastic, a franchisor in Canada with more than 1,100 restaurants and $1.1 billion in sales; this company's portfolio includes Freshii, Pita Pit, Shoeless Joe's, and many more restaurant chains. The other agreement is with Franquicias Internacionales, an El Salvador–based franchisor with what the press release describes as "a robust portfolio of several complementary businesses across food and beverage, digital media and logistics."

This may be Jimmy John's first reach for a global footprint, but Inspire Brands is plenty familiar with international expansion. The company also owns Arby's, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin', and Sonic, with more than 32,000 restaurant locations worldwide.

Jimmy John's has made some updates to its menu offerings recently that might have signaled this next step before it was announced. Take, for example, its decision to permanently add wraps to the menu. The sandwich chain currently offers a Chicken Caesar Wrap, Jalapeño Ranch Chicken Wrap, and Tuscan Italian Wrap. By adding a new menu category, Jimmy John's will have more room to test out what types of offerings might resonate with customers across a broader geographic area.

Jimmy John's might do well to take a page out of the McDonald's or Starbucks playbooks as both are well known for having impressive international menu items. Some would even argue (as we have, multiple times) that the menu offerings are better in other countries than they are at home. But I digress.

Although the Jimmy John's announcement does not specify the strategy behind this push to grow the restaurant's footprint—maybe it got tired of lagging behind Subway's 20,576 U.S. locations?—the point is that this sandwich chain is going global. Soon millions more customers can get excited for fresh baked bread and massive pickles.