"The World's Largest Bánh Mì Chain"
|Predecessor||Lee Bros. Foodservice, Inc.|
|Founded||June 1983San Jose, California, United Statesin|
|Headquarters||San Jose, California, United States|
Number of locations
|Products||Bánh mì, Vietnamese iced coffee, chè|
Lee's Sandwiches International, Inc., is a Vietnamese fast food restaurant chain headquartered in San Jose, California, with locations in several states and in Taiwan. Lee's Sandwiches specializes in bánh mì, "European-style" baguette sandwiches, Vietnamese iced coffee, and Vietnamese dessert chè. It is credited with helping to popularize Vietnamese sandwiches and iced coffee among mainstream American consumers and inspiring several other Vietnamese-owned bakery chains.
Lee's Sandwiches was founded by the Lê family, who owned a successful sugar refinery in An Giang Province in Vietnam before the Vietnam War and immigrated to the United States as boat people in July 1979. After living briefly in New Mexico and Monterey, California, they settled in San Jose, California, in 1980.
Chieu Le (Lê Văn Chiêu) initially worked as a cook in a food truck before purchasing one in 1981, from which he and his wife Yen (Quách Ngọc Yến) sold hamburgers, burritos, chow mein, and bánh mì to office workers on lunch breaks. The following year, Chieu's brother Henry (Lê Văn Hướng) purchased his own food truck, and the two began a mobile catering distribution business. They named it Lee Bros. Foodservice, Inc., anglicizing their surname to "Lee". It grew to serve more than 500 food trucks by 1985, many of them owned by Vietnamese immigrants.
In 1983, Chieu and Henry's parents, Lê Văn Bá and Nguyễn Thị Hạnh, began borrowing Chieu's truck on weekends to sell bánh mì at the corner of 6th and Santa Clara streets, near the San Jose State University campus. The truck's popularity prompted complaints from nearby restaurants. In June 1983, they opened a traditional Vietnamese sandwich shop named Lee's Sandwiches at the same street corner. In 1988, Lee's Sandwiches moved to a larger space near King and Tully roads in the Vietnamese section of East San Jose.
On August 8, 2001, Chieu and his son Minh (Lê Chiêu Minh) opened the family's first American-style bakery-café in the Little Saigon of Westminster, California. It featured an expanded menu including deli sandwiches, coffee, and desserts, with the goal of attracting Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese customers alike. There was some disagreement among family members about the new direction. However, the new store was a success. Within a year, the chain opened seven more locations and expanded to many other cities in California. In 2005, Lee's Sandwiches became the first Vietnamese deli-cafe to franchise.
By 2006, Lee's had become one of the fastest-growing fast food chains in the western United States. In March 2006, it opened its largest location, at 10,000 square feet (930 m2), in Houston. A long line formed in anticipation of the grand opening of Lee's' first Houston location.
On August 8, 2008, Lee's opened a café in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, as part of a joint venture with a South Korean company. In August 2015, it opened a location near the Taipei station in Taipei, Taiwan. As of April 2017[update], market research firm Sundale Research listed Lee's Sandwiches among the 12 largest bakery-café chains in the United States. On August 8, 2017, the Lê family opened a café named Lee's Coffee Roastery adjacent to a Lee's Sandwiches location in Westminster, California.
As of 2018[update], Lee's Sandwiches has 59 locations in the United States. They are located in cities with large Vietnamese American populations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. One shop is located in front of the original location, next to San Jose City Hall. Lee's Sandwiches has locations in food courts at the Asian Garden Mall in Westminster, California, and the Cali Saigon Mall in Garland, Texas. With locations in Westminster Mall in Westminster and Eastport Plaza in Portland, Oregon, Lee's Sandwiches is one of the first Vietnamese businesses to enter mainstream malls and shopping centers.
In December 2013, Lee's Sandwiches recalled 16-ounce (450 g) mai quế lộ Chinese sausage packages totaling 740 pounds (340 kg) due to concerns about Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin contamination.
In May 2015, Lee's Sandwiches recalled 441,000 pounds (200,000 kg) of beef, pork, and chicken bánh bao and pâté chaud produced at its Garden Grove, California, facility, due to an investigation by the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service into meat that was falsely stamped with the San Jose facility's inspection mark.
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- Trần Củng Sơn (December 4, 2010). "Doanh Nhân Lê Văn Bá Từ Những Ổ Bánh Mì Thịt Nguội Đến Thương Hiệu Lee's Sandwiches" [Businessman Lê Văn Bá Went from Cold-Cut Bánh Mì to Lee's Sandwiches Stores]. Việt Báo Daily News (in Vietnamese). Westminster, California. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
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- Thủy Tiên (October 14, 2016). "Lê Văn Hướng - chủ Lee's Sandwiches ở Mỹ, qua đời vì ung thư gan" [Henry Le - owner of Lee's Sandwiches in the U.S., dies of liver cancer]. Người tiêu dùng (in Vietnamese). Hanoi: Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
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- "Lee's Sandwiches Goes International - Opens First Shop in Taiwan" (Press release). Lee's Sandwiches. August 5, 2015.
- "State of the Industry: Retail Bakeries in the U.S." (PDF). April 2017. p. 10. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
- Luna, Nancy (August 10, 2017). "4 new coffee houses in Orange County include a Lee's roastery". Orange County Register. Anaheim, California: Digital First Media. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
- Nguyễn Linh (December 31, 2013). "Lee's Sandwiches 'điều chỉnh ngay' sau khi lạp xưởng bị thu hồi" [Lee's Sandwiches makes 'immediate adjustments' after Chinese sausage recall]. Nguoi Viet Daily News (in Vietnamese). Retrieved July 1, 2018.
- Seipel, Tracy (May 29, 2015). "Lee's Sandwiches doubles product recall to almost 441,000 pounds of beef, pork and chicken". San Jose Mercury News. Digital First Media. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
- Nguyễn Linh; Ðỗ Dzũng (May 26, 2015). "Lee's Sandwiches thu hồi gần 100 tấn thực phẩm vì dán lộn nhãn" [Lee's Sandwiches recalls nearly 100 metric tons of mislabeled food products]. Nguoi Viet Daily News (in Vietnamese). Retrieved July 1, 2018.
- List of bakery cafés
- List of restaurant chains in the United States
- Phở Hòa, another Vietnamese restaurant chain that began in San Jose
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