The first Lenny's Sub Shop was opened in Bartlett in 1998 by Len Moore, who sold the business to a group of investors in 2004. There are now roughly 150 Lenny's in 20 states.
"We're constantly in research development, looking at ways to enhance our menu," says Brent Alvord, president of Lenny's Franchise System, LLC.
One recent enhancement, the "Under 500" menu board — lime green and placed center, to catch the eye — highlights 9 sandwiches under 500 calories, starting at $3.50.
All of the "Under 500" sandwiches are regular menu items, only without the cheese or olive oil. Among the sandwiches are the roast beef sub, Mile High turkey sub, and the tuna salad kaiser.
There's a lot going on with the "Under 500" menu — you've got the options, the value, the information. It's marketing, sure, but it's also being proactive regarding the coming federal law requiring fast food chains to display nutritional information. (Nutritional information is available online.)
Consumers are savvier about nutrition, and more are following stricter diets — gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian. Alvord says that Lenny's hasn't had much luck yet in finding good-tasting gluten-free items, and vegan is tough as well. He notes, though, that the vegetarian black bean kaiser sandwich is one his favorite sandwiches at Lenny's.
So, I went and tried it myself, and it's now going to be my go-to order at Lenny's. This is a nice, hefty sandwich — a good black bean patty, topped with a generous amount of veggies. And, yep, it's under 500 calories.