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Lee's Sandwiches

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Lee’s Sandwiches International, Inc.
Lee’s Sandwiches
Company typePrivate
GenreFast Casual
PredecessorLee Bros. Foodservice, Inc.
FoundedJune 1983; 41 years ago (1983-06)
San Jose, California, United States[1]
FoundersChieu Lê
United States
Number of locations
61[2][3] (2021)
Area served
Key people
  • Chieu Le (Chief Executive Officer)
  • Jimmy Le (Vice President)[4]
  • Tom Quách (Chief Operating Officer)[5]
ProductsBánh mì, Vietnamese iced coffee, chè, desserts
RevenueIncrease US$32 million (2021)
Number of employees
2,000 (2021)

Lee's Sandwiches International, Inc., is a Vietnamese-American 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.[6] It is credited with popularizing Vietnamese sandwiches and iced coffee among mainstream American consumers and inspiring several other Vietnamese-owned bakery chains.[7][8][9]


Lee Bros. Foodservice and Lee's Sandwiches headquarters in San Jose.
A Lee's Sandwiches location in Westminster, California.

Lee's Sandwiches was founded by the 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.[10][11][4] After having lived briefly in New Mexico and Monterey, California, they settled in San Jose, California, in 1980.[1]

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.[9][12] Founded in San Jose's Little Saigon, 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.[8][5]

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.[4] The truck's popularity prompted complaints from nearby restaurants.[9][12] In June 1983, they opened a traditional Vietnamese sandwich shop named Lee's Sandwiches at the same street corner.[10][8][13] In 1988, Lee's Sandwiches moved to a larger space near King and Tully roads in the Vietnamese section of East San Jose.[12][14]

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.[15][1][4] There was some disagreement among family members about the new direction.[16] However, the new store was a success. Within a year, the chain opened seven more locations and expanded to many other cities in California.[5] In 2005, Lee's Sandwiches became the first Vietnamese deli-cafe to franchise.[17][4]

Typical Lee's Sandwiches fare, pictured here at the Taipei location, includes croissant sandwiches, special combination bánh mì, gỏi cuốn, and iced coffee.

By 2006, Lee's had become one of the fastest-growing fast food chains in the western United States.[8][14] In March 2006, it opened its largest location, at 10,000 square feet (930 m2), in Houston.[14] A long line formed in anticipation of the grand opening of Lee's' first Houston location.[18]

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.[8] In August 2015, it opened a location near the Taipei station in Taipei, Taiwan.[19] As of April 2017, market research firm Sundale Research listed Lee's Sandwiches among the 12 largest bakery-café chains in the United States.[20] On August 8, 2017, the family opened a café named Lee's Coffee Roastery adjacent to a Lee's Sandwiches location in Westminster, California.[21]

Many restaurants stopped dine-in service in March 2020 to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, with take-away and pickup service available.


Lee's Sandwiches Bellaire, located in the International District, Houston, Texas, is the chain's largest location at 10,000 square feet (930 m2). The store bakes up to 300 baguettes per hour.[18]

As of 2018, 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.[2][1]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Swift, Mike (November 25, 2010). "Le Van Ba, the Ray Kroc of Vietnamese sandwiches, dead at 79". San Jose Mercury News. MediaNews Group. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Stores". Lee's Sandwiches. Archived from the original on June 29, 2018. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  3. ^ "Stores: Taiwan". Lee's Sandwiches. Archived from the original on July 2, 2018. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Basheda, Lori (May 16, 2015). "They reach safe harbor, then their ship comes in". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Nguyễn Hoàng (May 6, 2015). "Bánh mì Việt thành công trên đất Mỹ" [Vietnamese sandwiches see success on American soil]. BBC Vietnamese (in Vietnamese). BBC News. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  6. ^ "Lee's Sandwiches – Alhambra". Gastronomer. July 10, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  7. ^ Lam, Andrew (2015). "The Marvel of Bánh Mì" (PDF). The Cairo Review of Global Affairs (18). American University in Cairo: 64–71. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e Huy Phương (December 4, 2010). "Người lập ra các tiệm bánh mì Lee's Sandwiches không còn nữa" [Founder of Lee's Sandwiches chain is gone]. Voice of America (in Vietnamese). Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Ngô Minh Trí (December 23, 2012). "Rạng danh bánh mì Việt" [Bringing honor upon the Vietnamese sandwich]. Thanh Niên (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City: Vietnam United Youth League. Archived from the original on May 19, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  10. ^ a b 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.
  11. ^ "Chieu Van Le and Yen Ngoc Quach Le, Lee Brothers Foodservices". Silicon Valley Business Journal. American City Business Journals. May 4, 2003. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Wong, Gerrye (April 18, 2006). "Vietnamese Sandwiches Make Chieu Le a Millionaire". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on July 1, 2018. Retrieved July 1, 2018 – via Lee's Sandwiches.
  13. ^ 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. Archived from the original on June 28, 2018. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  14. ^ a b c "Lee's Sandwiches Fact Sheet". Lee's Sandwiches. Archived from the original on June 15, 2008. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  15. ^ Seftel, Howard (July 28, 2005). "Lee's Sandwiches". The Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
  16. ^ "Sandwich shops add slice of Americana". Outlook. Vol. 1, no. 2. Vietnam News Agency. 2004. pp. 26–27 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Eaves, Elisabeth (January 9, 2008). "In Pictures: 20 Trends Sweeping The Globe". Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  18. ^ a b Moreno, Jenalia (July 27, 2006). "Vietnamese restaurant chain lures other ethnic groups". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
  19. ^ "Lee's Sandwiches Goes International - Opens First Shop in Taiwan" (Press release). Lee's Sandwiches. August 5, 2015. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  20. ^ "State of the Industry: Retail Bakeries in the U.S." (PDF). April 2017. p. 10. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
  21. ^ 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.