published Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Embedded: On the job with a Jimmy John's delivery man

  • photo
    We put a GoPro camera on Nathan Wright, second from left, as the three-year veteran of Jimmy John/s sandwich shop grabs a delivery and heads to the courthouse
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

WHOSE VIEW?

Name: Nathan Wright

Age: 22

Job: Jimmy John’s delivery driver

Wage: $7.25 per hour plus tips

Years in the job: 3

Best part: “Giving people food makes them happy.”

Worst part: Getting stiffed and finding parking spots

Nathan Wright knows every address in downtown Chattanooga. Name a building, and odds are he’s been there — carrying a sandwich, chips and a drink. The 22-year-old is a Jimmy John’s delivery driver.

Every trip starts in the shop at the corner of Market and 10th streets, where hoards of black-shirted employees build cold sandwiches with frantic focus, tossing ready-to-go deliveries at Wright like a rapid-fire pitching machine while music blares overhead.

Wright snags the deliveries then zips around Jimmy John’s downtown grid in a green pickup truck, dashing from Fraizer Avenue to Central Avenue, from the riverfront to 23rd Street. The grid is tiny by design: that’s why the deliveries are so freaky fast, Wright said. It’s a five-minute drive to anywhere.

In his three years on the job, Wright’s learned a thing or two about sub shipping.

“Pay the meter,” he said emphatically. “Because if you don’t, you will get a ticket. And if you get a ticket, pay it right away. Because if you don’t, it will go up to $30.”

Parking is one of the trickier parts of the job. “You have to make your own way,” he said.

And while Jimmy John’s delivery drivers have a robust reputation for wild maneuvers on the road, Wright said he actually makes the best time when he’s not in the truck.

“You’re going to hit red lights, you’re going to get stopped, that’s just part of it,” he said. “You don’t make up time with how fast you drive, you make it up when you’re out of the car, running and hustling.”

There are more than 1,600 Jimmy John’s restaurants in the United States and about 45,000 employees. Wright, who graduated college in August with a degree in public nonprofit management, hopes to use the fast-paced, on-your-toes job as a stepping stone into what he calls the “real world.”

“Everyone assumes that because we’re delivery drivers, we drive crazy and do ridiculous things,” he said. “But in reality, we know where we make up our time is finding the best route, trying to avoid the lights and trying to book it when we’re out of the car.”

Got an idea for Embedded? Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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