4 Potbelly franchisees add to their development commitments

The deals are the latest in an ongoing franchisee acceleration program as the sandwich chain pushes to reach 2,000 units, with 85% franchised.
Potbelly unit
Potbelly currently has about 425 units, of which about 17% are franchised. | Photo: Shutterstock.

Potbelly on Tuesday said it has added another 18 shops to its pipeline with four existing franchisees upping their commitments.

The deals are the latest in an ongoing franchisee acceleration program launched in 2022, which has sparked roughly 200 shops in development across multiple states. The Chicago-based chain has been focusing on working with multi-unit operators and the brand has a long-term goal of reaching 2,000 units, with about 85% of them franchised. Potbelly now has about 425 locations, and about 17% are franchised.

The four franchisees—who are mostly fairly new to the Potbelly system—planning to expand their development with the brand include:

Ron Asmar of RTA Restaurant Group LLC is adding four units to his commitment, which now totals 18 Potbelly locations planned for Tampa, Fla. His third shop is scheduled to open in late spring or summer.

Shari Nasir and Imran Malik of Sugarland Investment Group LLC, who have added six shops to their portfolio in Orlando, Fla. The group opened its first location in January and now plans to open a total of 12 over the next few years, the company said.

Rob Wilbern of I’m A Wreck LLC plans to open four more Potbelly units in St. Louis, adding to the five he has committed to open in Springfield, Ill, including a non-traditional location inside Springfield Memorial Hospital expected to open in late March.

Shakti Patel of MSS Fort Liberty LLC plans to bring three non-traditional locations to Fort Liberty Army Base in Fayetteville, N.C. this year. Patel has been a franchise operator of the brand since 2015 and operates three units.

“As soon as our franchisees open their shops, they experience firsthand the widespread appeal of the Potbelly brand,” said Lynette McKee, Potbelly’s senior vice president of franchising, in a statement. “This immediate success has been a driving force behind their independent decisions to reinvest in the brand and deepen their commitment to Potbelly.”

Potbelly has also been refranchising stores to help seed that growth and move toward a more-franchised system, though McKee said there are no plans to refranchise any units this year, aside from the occasional one-off, in part because the system has seen so much interest in development from franchise operators.

The company is scheduled to report fourth quarter and full year earnings on Thursday. In January, the company released preliminary financial results, saying same-store sales for the fourth quarter are expected to be between 5.9% and 6.4%, exceeding earlier projections of 4% to 6%. Potbelly said it expects same-store sales for the year to increase about 12%.

UPDATE: This article has been updated with new information from the company.


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