In a major about-face, sandwich chain Jimmy John’s this week announced a nationwide partnership with DoorDash to use the latter’s new Self-Delivery service.
Through that service, Jimmy John’s will use DoorDash’s marketplace to process orders and reach new customers while still maintaining its own driver fleet and control of the last mile of delivery. The nationwide expansion follows a six-month pilot of 100 restaurants. DoorDash has also built a direct integration with Jimmy John’s POS system, so that delivery and pickup orders go straight to the main system rather than to an external tablet.
At one point, Jimmy John’s was famous for its refusal to use third-party delivery services, flatly stating in 2019, “We will never use third party delivery services.”
Two big things have happened since that statement, though: Inspire Brands acquired Jimmy John’s and the COVID-19 pandemic hit, decimating the restaurant experience as we know it.
Inspire, which also owns Arby’s, Sonic, and Buffalo Wild Wings, completed its acquisition of Jimmy John’s in September of 2019. At the time, Jimmy John’s successful in-house delivery program was seen as an attractive asset few other brands could offer. (Domino’s is the other notable example here.)
Then along came COVID-19, and even quick-service brands — which have fared much better overall than other restaurant formats — were forced to shift the majority of their focus to improving the off-premises experience, including delivery.
Inspire Brands has long had an existing relationship with DoorDash, so given the state of the restaurant biz, it’s not terribly surprising Jimmy John’s would eventually get linked to the third-party delivery service. Reaching new customers via digital channels is a must nowadays, and Inspire acknowledged as much this week in its press release: “As part of a broader brand evolution, Jimmy John’s has been focused on continuing to reach new guests and refining its channels and operations to meet customers where they are while maintaining the unique Jimmy John’s delivery experience.”
The twist, of course, is the Self-Delivery program. Through it, Jimmy John’s can gain access to more customers via digital channels while still keeping high commission fees down by using its own drivers. Keeping the fleet in-house also gives the brand more control over the quality of its orders as they travel from kitchen to customer.
Jimmy John’s is in a unique position in that it has kept an in-house delivery fleet for years and can afford to continue that, even as the fallout from the pandemic continues. Other brands can’t necessarily afford that luxury, so it isn’t certain this deal will motivate other chains to adopt similar delivery strategies. A more common route to hybrid delivery will likely be restaurants processing orders and payments through their own digital properties and letting a third party handle the last mile.