Hot Item At Potbelly: Franchises

Crain’s Chicago Business:

Potbelly Sandwich Works LLC is recruiting franchisees for the first time as the Chicago-based sandwich chain aims to expand into more than 40 cities — marking the company’s first major strategy shift since hiring a new CEO last year.

Adding franchisees is a significant move for the closely held restaurant operator. Potbelly’s chairman and former CEO, Bryant Keil, has expressed reservations about growing through franchising, citing his desire to preserve the culture of a chain known for its unique décor, fresh-baked cookies and friendly employees.

But last year, Mr. Keil hired CEO Aylwin Lewis, the former chief executive of struggling department store giant Sears Holdings Corp., to accelerate Potbelly’s growth nationally. Before his stint at Sears, Mr. Lewis oversaw more than 32,000 restaurants as chief operating officer of Kentucky-based Yum Brands Inc., which owns Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC.

Read on…

Potbelly CEO Aylwin Lewis | Photo: Erik Unger.

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