$1 Subs Are a Hit at Jimmy John's

Subs So Inexpensive You'll Freak
On June 10, 2010, Jimmy John's restaurants in the Chicagoland area and Northwest Indiana offered $1 sandwiches from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. as part of Customer Appreciation Day. Unlike the KFC free grilled chicken promotion disaster that occurred last summer (I wrote about it here and here), this promotion was a huge success.

I visited two Jimmy John's in Chicago to check up on the promotion. I visited the one at 28 N. Clark at 11:45 a.m. (view the video above to see the line out the door at that time) and 2:45 p.m. and the one at 216 W. Washington at noon. Both restaurants had massive lines out the door during each of my visits, but the Jimmy John's staff handled the situation beautifully:

  • Neither store ran out of food. My co-worker, who waited in line for 35 minutes to get a $1 sub, reported that employees at the restaurant on Clark were constantly replenishing the supply of fresh vegetables and bread in order to keep customers moving through the line.

  • Employees outside handled crowd control. Both stores in Chicago placed Jimmy John's employees outside of their stores to help keep the crowds in an orderly line. The staffers also handed out menus to customers in line and took the time to explain which sandwiches were being offered at the reduced price.
Behind the scenes, Jimmy John's marketing team set up a great promotion in many ways:
  • No coupons were necessary. Coupons require people to plan ahead. One of the best parts of this promotion was that it was a limited time offer and passer-bys who hadn't previously heard about the promotion could simply get in line and buy a $1 sub.

  • The promotion lasted four hours. We've seen in the past that promotions that require coupons that can be redeemed for up to two weeks cause restaurants to run out of food quickly and then disappoint the rest of their customers for the duration of the promotion. Having a very specific, short promotion let Jimmy John's serve all of its customers and not run out of food. No restaurant can sustain two weeks of a free food promotion, but Jimmy John's showed exactly how to thrive in a four-hour, nearly-free food promotion. Which leads to my next point...

  • The sandwiches weren't free. The difference between free and $1 might seem insignificant, but I think it's very important. Free giveaways put all the responsibility on the company. The customer thinks, "this company owes me something free." When the customer has to pay something — even if it's inexpensive — the company and customer share responsibility. I think this creates happier customers from the start, and ultimately leads to a better promotion.

  • Twitter support. So many people visited the Jimmy John's website during the promotion that it crashed several times. But, Jimmy John's was still able to support their promotion via their Twitter feed.
Congratulations to the team at Jimmy John's for such a great promotion that truly captured the attention of a lot of people. I even got a photo of some Dunkin' Donuts employees waiting in line for their $1 subs.

Add This to Your To-Do List
If you're running a promotion at your company, pay close attention to how Jimmy John's ran this promotion: Run it for a limited time, don't require coupons, keep customers engaged and relaxed while they wait, and make the customers pay something.

There's never a lack of ideas.

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