EAST TEXAS (KLTV/KTRE) - Joe Tortorice Jr., who founded the national sandwich chain Jason’s Deli, has died at age 70.
Saturday, the company announced the news via a social media post and bulletin on the company’s website.
“Today, we mourn the loss of our founder, our friend, Joe Tortorice Jr.,” the post reads. “Joe was the heart of Jason’s Deli, and words cannot begin to express how deeply saddened we are by this loss. His legacy will not only be remembered, but celebrated in the times ahead.”
Tortorice Jr. grew up with ties to the food service industry. His father, Joe Tortorice Sr. invested in four grocery stores, two laudromats, two dry cleaners, and a sandwich shop, J’s BBQ and Washateria.
The company statement notes that it was that shop which would inspire Jason’s Deli.
The name “Jason’s Deli” is derived from Tortorice’s eldest son.
Read the full statement below:
"Our inspirational founder and chairman of the board, Joe Tortorice Jr., passed away this morning at the age of 70. He is survived by his mother Margaret, his wife of 48 years, Shelley, their three children and nine grandchildren. Tortorice was best known for his kindness, empathy and humility - a testament to the way he lived his life as a servant leader and his dedication to improving the lives of others.
Tortorice believed above all else that a strong company culture built among its employees and supported through servant leadership, translates into a better experience for the customer. According to him, that culture is the way people treat each other; the warmth, compassion, and love inside a company. He understood that “humbly serving others today and putting their needs before your own will make you a better leader tomorrow.” He continually “took accountability for the well being of others” in both his personal and professional life.
The grandson of Italian immigrants, Tortorice grew up with food service as a key part of his life. His father, Joe Tortorice Sr., invested in four grocery stores, two laundromats, two dry cleaners and a little sandwich shop, J's BBQ and Washateria, which would inspire Tortorice to open his own restaurant - Jason’s Deli. Tortorice talked about how he learned empathy from his dad and humility from his grandfather who gave up his own retirement to help him in the deli.
From that single location founded in 1976 in Beaumont, TX, Jason’s Deli has grown into a leading, fast casual restaurant chain with 294 locations across 28 states and employing more than 12,000 people.
Eldest son Jay, who inspired the company’s name (Jay + Son = Jason’s), said he'll remember his father most for being “a dedicated family man, business mentor and inspiration to all who knew him.”
Tortorice was actively involved with the day-to-day operations of the company and in his position as Chairman of the Board of Deli Management Inc., the parent company of Jason’s Deli. He continued to visit delis, attend manager workshops and spoke at numerous colleges and universities."