Lenny's News and Interviews

Lenny's Sub Shop - A Deli Fresh Business Model

December 06, 2010

The American Business Journal

There is nothing like a sub sandwich; fresh, tasty, and made to order. This satisfying food favourite is an American staple and a surprisingly healthy option in the quick serve food market. Lenny’s Sub Shop opened in Memphis, TN in 1998 as a single-unit shop specializing in authentic subs and Philly cheesesteak. The shop was a runaway success, and soon after it was franchised and began to expand across the United States. ABJ spoke with Brent Alvord, president and CEO of Lenny’s Sub Shop about why the chain is successful, and why a Lenny’s sub franchise is a great investment.
What is it that sets these subs apart in a crowded market? The (not so) secret is in the deli fresh experience promised by every Lenny’s Sub Shop. The founder of the company—named Lenny of course—reportedly “couldn’t get a good sandwich” in Memphis, so he started the concept of fresh, deli-sliced, made-to-order subs. Hot sandwiches are cooked on the spot on the kitchen grill and meats and cheeses are sliced right from the deli. says Alvord, “We take the meat out of the deli case, put it on the slicer and slice it fresh right then for your sandwich and same with the cheeses if you are getting a cold sandwich. If it is a hot sandwich, then it is coming out of the back kitchen where we have a grill and cook it all to order.” This ‘hot-off-the-grill’ promise is likely why Lenny’s has fared better than many of its competitors who microwave or re-heat food. That, and of course, the sheer portion size; a large sub (15-inch) has a pound of meat and cheese—a substantially larger amount than competitors.

‘Sub’stantial growth
Lenny’s Sub Shop built up to 40 units and began franchising in 2001. Alvord bought the business in 2004 and has been aggressively building on the already successful business ever since. He says, “We’ve taken it to the next level in that we’ve tripled the size of the business in the last five years.”
It makes sense: in a crowded market, there is always that demand for a great sandwich. The shop locations are primarily in the Southeast, but there are plans for continual growth and expansion. Says Alvord, “We are going to continue to backfill the Southeast, as well as expand all across the country, from traditional to non-traditional sites. We’re examining more and more airports and college campuses, etc.” Online ordering is now available for all units, and there is also the exciting development of an iPhone application which will allow customers to order right from their phones.
In America, a great sandwich is a great thing—and can come with substantial profits. Lenny’s Sub Shop is growing rapidly and is seeking investors who share its vision. Alvord elaborates, “We’re looking for franchisees who want to make some money and want to be their own bosses. They can jump out to corporate America where they can jump out to endeavor and control their own destiny. We’re looking for someone who is well capitalized and has enough money to get a loan or an investment.” The company is looking for investors who understand the franchise model and understand its benefits. “We’re looking for people who are interested in being entrepreneurs but also not necessarily looking to recreate a system. We’ve already invested millions of dollars into our system in getting it right and we want people to come in who believe in the brand and enjoy people and working with young people.”

The Lenny’s experience
Lenny’s Sub Shop has a unique ambiance, combining a touch of full service in a quick service environment. Employees will bring subs to the tables when they are ready, offer refills, and clean up as well. Alvord adds, “We do not have trash cans for the guests. We believe that they are guests in our restaurant so it is our job to clean up after them.” The success of the original Lenny’s Sub Shop was partially due to the environment of a nice, local sub shop—something which franchises work hard to maintain. Says Alvord, “We try to build guest relationships and try to learn people’s favorite sandwich, their name, thereby creating that camaraderie and turning into a local, neighborhood sub shop. This mentality is instilled into employees, and is paramount to the continued success of the business. “We try to create an ambience where people enjoy coming to see us,” says Alvord, “It’s not just your typical quick-serve restaurant.”
In a crowded market, Lenny’s Sub Shop has consistently grown its business. To the ABJ team, this must mean they are doing something right. From the fresh deli slices, to the made-to-order sandwiches, to the inviting atmosphere, this business has clearly found a model for success. Alvord sums it up nicely with a company motto: “More Food. More Taste. More Personality.”


Contact Lenny's Public Relations:

Jenna Duett
Marketing and PR Manager
(901) 753-4002