Leadership

Potbelly’s CMO to depart later this month

Brandon Rhoten had served as chief marketing officer at the struggling sandwich chain since June 2018.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Brandon Rhoten, who has served as Potbelly Corp.’s CMO since June 2018, is leaving the chain, effective Dec. 18.

Rhoten declined to comment on the reason for his departure, citing the fact that the chain is a public company. A Potbelly representative did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the move.

“I am extremely proud of the work the team did and of where Potbelly is headed given the direction we’ve laid out,” Rhoten said in a message to Restaurant Business.

During his tenure with Potbelly, Rhoten championed a reconfigured menu that featured smaller shakes, as well as bundles with downsized sandwiches.

But the Chicago-based chain, which was struggling pre-pandemic, continues to face challenges.

Potbelly is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with the landlord of its Chicago headquarters, who is claiming the chain has failed to pay more than $800,000 in rent and other fees for its 27,000 square feet of office space.

The 452-unit chain has reported massive traffic and sales declines during the pandemic, especially as downtown office workers continue to work from home.

Potbelly’s Q3 same-store sales dropped 21%; they declined 41.5% during the second quarter.

The company has previously said it was planning corporate layoffs to conserve cash and reduce costs by up to $4 million.

Rhoten, who had served as CMO at Papa John’s and VP of marketing for Wendy’s, said he is considering starting a social/digital media consultancy for “brands that are struggling to modernize their marketing or develop a brand voice consumers will actually respond to.”

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