Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Reader Writes: Blimpie vs. Jimmy Johns

The below comment was recently posted under our review of Jimmy John's and we thought it was so informative and that "Anonymous" must have put a lot of time into it, so we decided to stick it out front. Sounds to me like Coeur d'Alene would have been luckier to have a new Blimpies opening instead of Jimmy John's. So far, the place hasn't really been getting a lot of love.

Anonymous said...
Hmm, that doesn't sound like a good start. My employer during my college years was Blimpie--a sandwich shop with a longer history than Subway, but unfortunately not as well marketed, especially not out here in the west. 
We baked our bread fresh every day, we freshly sliced the meat right in front of the customers, and we garnished it to-order (although if you haven't had a sandwich the Blimpie Way, you're missing out). 
The process was simple. You go to the side of the counter with the big sign hanging over it saying "Order Here." The person slicing asks what kind of sandwich you want, and once you say what kind, asks if you'd like white or wheat bread (other "gourmet" breads are listed on a big sign right next to the customer). After your selection was made, the bread got passed on down the line for garnishing while the meat was being sliced and the garnisher would ask, "Would you like this the Blimpie Way?" at which point the customer would either say yes, or list the garnishing he or she wanted. As soon as that question was fulfilled, whomever was running the cash register would take over and complete the transaction while the garnisher finished assembling the sandwich and wrapping it. 
This all worked quite smoothly. We could run efficiently with as few as three people during slow hours, and a maximum of five to six during peak hours. (One slicer, one or two garnishers, one person on register, one person on drive through, and one person doing "back-up" bringing up supplies as we ran low, serving soup, etc.) 
There was never a time when we were truly overwhelmed, even though we were the highest-volume sandwich shop in the area. It was just a matter of ensuring that employees were efficient and strategically placed. 
There were some times where I would run the shop with only two people during really slow hours. During my heyday, I could slice a 6" Blimpie Best and garnish it the Blimpie Way in 20 seconds without making a mistake or a mess. That's: pull out a footlong loaf of bread, cut it in half, slice three types of ham, hard salami, and add provolone cheese then garnish with tomato, lettuce, onion, vinegar, oil, and oregano. Nicely assembled, wrapped and labeled in 20 seconds flat. 
The point being? I was well-trained by my manager when I started working there, and when I became manager I kept the tradition. We were always polite (but never slobberingly over-friendly) and we were always efficient, and our customers really appreciated that.
I guess what this entire thing boils down to is that from this description, it sounds like Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches needs to focus less on number of hands-on-deck, and more on properly training their staff so fewer people can do the same amount of work faster and ensure satisfied customers. It's no good when you just abandon a customer's sandwich right in front of them and don't come back! 
The one operational procedure described about Jimmy John's I did find even somewhat appropriate is identifying customers by their sandwiches. We always had a steady flow of customers, and customers moved along with their sandwiches all the way down the line, so it wasn't a necessity. Customers were constantly engaged and moving along with their sandwiches' creation from ordering at the slicer through receiving it at the cashier. 
I'd been intending to try Jimmy John's soon, but after this blog, I'm not sure I could stand going in there. I can't tolerate establishments that are run as you've described. I'll probably try it at some point though if someone can answer a couple of questions for me: At minimum, is their bread fresh-baked every day, and is their meat fresh-sliced for each sandwich? If not, I'm sticking with the status quo of baking my own bread, frying my own tortillas and using my own home slicer to make fresh, delicious sandwiches and wraps.

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