Jimmy John’s dilutes definition of “gourmet” with mediocrity
Today with all the social media outlets and review sites, I find it hard to believe that mediocrity continues to prevail in the culinary landscape. I have a great deal of travel, dining and cooking experience, so if anyone knows the meaning of “gourmet,” it’s me! I can tell you that unequivocally Jimmy John’s (JJ’s), the “gourmet” sandwich chain sweeping the nation, is the antithesis of gourmet! I get so irritated when I get suckered into a dining experience with marketing terms like “gourmet,” and then learn that it’s anything but!
Years ago I used to patronage an excellent small chain of sandwich shops whose name escapes me–for some reason I mistook Jimmy John’s for this other sandwich maker. A disappointing lapse on my part.
I should have taken being nearly run down (no exaggeration) by a Jimmy John’s delivery driver as an omen of things to come. My visit to JJ’s was shared by a long time friend and one of his colleagues, one of whom had been to JJ’s before–however his taste buds are not as discerning as mine. As we entered, I thought the décor and atmosphere appeasing enough, but noticed that there were few customers, which was surprising to me given the time of day. Not so surprising after consuming my meal. As I perused the menu and noticed no “Boar’s Head” signs, I knew that JJ’s was not the same place I had initially thought it was. I also suspected that a place not using one of the best cold cuts (Boar’s Head) could hardly be considered “gourmet.”
After ordering our sandwiches and filling our soft drinks, we easily found a vacant table and sat down. Our order was promptly ready, so my buddy went up to grab our lunch. I wanted to add some sweetener to my iced tea, but there was none to be found on the tables or near the vending area. I asked someone who was cleaning tables and he told me I needed to ask someone at the counter. “Really,” I thought. I walked up to the countered and asked for some Splenda (I know, it’s kind of a chick thing, but I’m trying to watch my figure) and the gal gave me several packets of the pink crap and said, “this is all we have.”
Back at the table I unwrap my sandwich and starred in disbelieve and disappointment at how “un-gourmet” my sandwich looked. It was typical cheap white sub-style bread, with shredded iceberg lettuce you’d find at a cheap taco stand, a few slices of highly processed turkey, two thinly sliced tomato’s and a just a smidge of deli mustard that I could hardly taste. That was my JJ’s “gourmet” sandwich.
My buddy’s colleague looked over at me, apparently sensing my dissatisfaction and said, “some gourmet sandwich, huh?” The cynicism was apparent as he too was displeased by my suggestion to try JJ’s.
While we were eating our sandwiches I was looking for a napkin…these too were not supplied with the meal, nor available at the table. I had asked a gentleman bussing a table next to us where the napkins were, fully expecting that he’d get some for us since they were clearly forgotten by the staff. “At the counter he said.” Yet another trip to the counter in order obtain what you’d think as a self-evident utensil.
I will give JJ’s props where they are due…they have some very good potato chips. However, chips alone are not enough to make me want to go back.
Before publishing this post, I did call JJ’s in an attempt to ask them what specifically they do to constitute using the term “gourmet” in their banner. The receptionist told me that unless I had a name, she could not transfer me to anyone. I told her I was with the media, but she insisted that without a name there was nothing she could do.
I used to work for a leading gourmet ice cream brand with franchises all over the country…I’m pretty familiar with the franchise model, and as I said before, with all things truly “gourmet.” It really, really surprises me that people would be lining up to invest in a company that clearly offers consumers a product that contradicts their marketing and position statement.
Jimmy John’s now has over 1000 locations, I’m sure many of you have been there…I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments below and let me know what you think of my assessment. Please “like” and link if felt this post was helpful.