Which Wich Superior Sandwiches Preps for East Lansing
Founder, CEO and Chief of Vibes Jeff Sinelli sets sights on alma mater for new location
Each year, hundreds of news outlets compile lists of the highest selling brands, brands to watch out for and fastest growing companies in the nation – one brand that’s garnered many of these said lists is Which Wich Superior Sandwiches. While the rising sandwich giant has stolen the gaze of food industry analysis for its unique attention to detail and optimized, customer-friendly ordering technique, it still hasn’t become a household name in the capital region – that’s soon going to change.
Despite not having a storefront in the area, Which Wich has always been an idea bred closer to home than one might realize. Founder and CEO Jeff Sinelli, better known as the companies Chief Vibe Officer, is a Michigan native and Michigan State University (MSU) Alumni – this past week he was called back home.
On April 8, Sinelli’s success and dedication to his Alma Mater was recognized by MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences Alumni Board, whom bestowed upon him the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award. The award acknowledges individuals who have gone above and beyond their duty as an alumni and set prolific examples of the success to be had for current students.
“It was a surprise to us and we were stoked to receive it,” expressed Sinelli. “I took five days out of my schedule to be here and to meet with students. I come back once a year to lecture here, with the School of Communications, Business and Hospitality. It’s how I give back and show the life lessons I’ve learned coming out of MSU. It’s great to be able to accept this award and now give back. I think the award has that significance. It’s an honor that allows me to spend more time in a place that I love.”
The Dallas based company has been spreading good vibes across the world, with over 450 locations to date and new developments as far as New Zealand and Australia in the works. Despite the growth, there still isn’t a location in Spartan Nation – yet. When I spoke with Sinelli, he was actively seeking to change this, insisting this wasn’t an oversight and rather something that must be done right.
With his eyes on the ever-popular Grand River corridor of downtown East Lansing, Sinelli is looking for the perfect location to make his move. With this project, there brand is poised to take attention to detail to the next level.
“I’m from Brighton – we’ve got two stores in Ann Arbor so it’s a shame we’re not here in EL. The Grand River Corridor is active and we’re looking for the right strategic partner here in EL. I’m looking to build a different type of Which Wich, with an edge towards MSU and those local values.”
As a former student athlete, having played for the MSU lacrosse team, Sinelli wants to ensure that this particular location is done right and properly pays homage to the area’s unique collegiate culture. The founders is looking to leverage his local connections and obtain backing that will allow for the development of an authentic space which can also be used for mentorship and community outreach. Which Wich operates as a franchise and is entertaining suitors with similar goals in mind.
“I want [our East Lansing location] to be a personal space, that’s one of the most successful in our company. I take pride in being a Spartan,” said Sinelli. “We’re looking for real success, drive, passion and enthusiasm. I want to work someone that’s in love with sandwiches too. We want a partner that wants to help us make a world a difference. We’ve got an edge up on a lot of restaurants that don’t start here. It’s personal, special and I’ll spend a lot of time at this store. If you’re the right partner, reach out to me at Jeff@whichwich.com”
Great sandwiches aren’t the only selling point for the brand. Living on the philosophy that “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” has brought Sinelli to the conclusion that the organization isn’t all about sales, work should be defined by the impact you have in the lives of others. Which Wich embodies this by embedding its business model with a special project, focused solely on strengthening communities and bettering the lives of individuals within them.
“Project PB&J is our opportunity to give back to the world,” explained Sinelli. “That was first sandwich I ever made as a kid. When times were tough I ate PB&Js and they’re still a real tool that kids eat every day to get by. We started to give PB&J sandwiches away in Dallas, which allowed us to live our mission in a real engaging way. At the store level you can buy one sandwich, and that creates a new sandwich for someone locally, and a second in our national system. It’s a 1:2 model. Right now we’re on track to give away millions each year to those who need it the most.”
Project PB&J is making a direct impact to the neighborhoods in which the company operates. Providing a meal to those in need, and subsequently creating a second sandwich that can be allocated to a different store during a time of crisis, such as a natural disaster or event of displacement, is a brilliant demonstration of the company’s ability to create a platform for change through local investment. Structurally, the program is designed for lovers of Which Wich, and their communities, to help one another – whether they be their next door neighbor or someone struggling across the country. Thus far 40 states are partaking in the project, within the communities of existing franchises. There is no red tape on the project because it’s an internally organized program, birthed by goodwill and heart.
On April 2nd, National PB&J Day, the company expanded upon this idea by partnering with the Salvation Army. For the entire month of April, Which Wich will discount its $3 PB&J sandwiches to a $2 price point. Come month’s end, Which Wich will donate a matching number of sandwiches to the local Salvation Army.
As the brand continues to use its passion for helping others as fuel for expansion, there’s an exciting proposition at hand that would allow Sinelli’s experiences to come full circle in a triumphant return to East Lansing. While the thought of a Which Wich location appearing in town seems inevitable, one’s things for certain – when it happens, the community will feel it. Until then we wait patiently to lend a hand in making the world a better place, one sandwich at a time.
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