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This Sandwich Chain Has Gone From Struggling To Growing With 19 New Locations

The new restaurants will open in across two states.

The Chicago-based sandwich shop Potbelly has been hungry for growth ever since experiencing a sizable slump during the pandemic. When fewer people ventured out during 2020, the chain's historically successful locations in high foot traffic areas, like airports and business centers, took a hit, resulting in an almost 30% loss in annual revenue.

To get people back in the door enjoying its tasty subs and unique atmosphere, Potbelly has tested out multiple strategies, from free oatmeal cookie giveaways to the introduction of breakfast menu items. The sandwich chain even overhauled its website and mobile app and pared down its menu.

This Fast-Casual Burger Chain Is Opening Dozens of New Locations

On the heels of these recent wins, Potbelly has now also signed two separate franchise contracts, adding several development deals to its expansion pipeline.

The first is a 14-restaurant deal with STA Management, an owner-operator group in the real estate industry in the Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla. area. The company already owns two Potbelly shops in the region, along with more than 60 other restaurants including Domino's, Poke Poke, and Boba Bar locations.

"It has been such an excellent fit for us with the experience we already bring to the table within the restaurant industry," STA Management partner Ronnie Asmar told QSR Magazine. "Plus, it is incredibly rewarding to see how much our customers love the brand. We can't wait to bring more good vibes and toasty sandwiches to Tampa!"

The second deal is with Illinois-based businessman and entrepreneur Rob Wilbern. For him, it was the "support of the leadership team" that led him to open five new Potbelly eateries in central Illinois, specifically the Champaign-Springfield-Decatur areas. Illinois currently houses more Potbelly shops than any other state. Wilbern is confident that his new franchises, nestled in the heart of the state and buzzing with students, businesses, and other residents, will find similar success.

These 19 new locations bring Potbelly's roster to over 450 total shops across 34 states and territories, getting it that much closer to its hefty expansion goal announced back in April. The brand plans to reach 2,000 total restaurants over the next 10 years as part of its Franchise Growth Acceleration Initiative. Similar to the Florida and central Illinois shops, at least 85% of these new locations will be set up as franchises, and about 25% of existing restaurants will be subject to refranchising as well.

Additionally, Potbelly is leaning on its newfound partnership with REEF Kitchens to massively grow its footprint. According to Potbelly's original press release announcing the partnership, the sandwich brand plans to set up delivery kitchens as part of the collaboration which will "create greater accessibility and convenience for consumers to enjoy the Potbelly menu items they love."

Megan Hageman
Megan is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Megan