This chain works a little sandwich magic for hungry patrons. Potbelly Sandwich Works owns and franchises more than 200 quick-service restaurants that specialize in fresh-made sandwiches in about a dozen states. The chain's menu features a variety of sandwich styles, including such specialty items as its four-meat stacker called A Wreck. The eateries also serve salads, soup, and chili, as well as homemade cookies, ice cream, and smoothies. Founded in 1977 out of an antique store on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, the chain operates mostly in the Midwest, with a small number of units located in Texas and along the Eastern Seaboard. Potbelly Sandwich Works is controlled by chairman Bryant Keil.
Targeting the crowded sandwich segment of the fast-food market, the company focuses on food quality and brand appeal in order to distinguish its chain from leaders such as Subway and Quiznos. Potbelly Sandwich Works trades on such mom-and-pop qualities as hand-dipped shakes, in-store meat slicing, and retro interior decor complete with antiques and vintage poster art. Many locations feature live music performances during lunch and dinner rush hours in a chainwide effort to build ties to local culture and encourage a lively experience.
The company's expansion efforts are funded with backing from Maveron, a venture capital firm established by Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz. Chairman Byant Keil, who purchased the Potbelly Sandwich business in 1996, stepped down as CEO in 2008 and turned the reins over to Aylwin Lewis. Formerly CEO of retailer Sears, Lewis led development of fast-food chain KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut as COO at YUM! Brands. – less