Potbelly Sandwich Shop of Chicago is coming to Souuthern California by the end of the year. They are known for their inexpensive toasted sandwiches. (Photo courtesy Potbelly)
Potbelly is known for offering a more upscale setting than Subway. (Photo by Matt Miller)
Potbelly is known for offering a more upscale setting than Subway. The first locations are coming to South Orange County. (Photo by Matt Miller)
A closer look at a Potbelly Sandwich Shop menu in Nebraska, the state’s only Potbelly. (Photo by Matt Miller)
Two years after teasing locals with its West Coast expansion plans, Chicago-based Potbelly Sandwich Shop said Orange County will be home to its first round of California restaurants.
Potbelly, known for its “neighborhood atmosphere” and toasted sandwiches made with hand-sliced deli meat, said this week it plans to open at least four restaurants in Southern California. Of those, at least three will be in south Orange County.
Yorba Linda businessman Sameer Bhatia is the first franchisee to sign an operating agreement for stores in California, the company said. The chain is targeting Southern California, the East Bay and Central Valley regions of the state.
Bhatia, who discovered Potbelly while working in New York, plans to open the first sandwich shop by the end of the year. He is scouting locations in Irvine, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Lake Forest.
Bhatia, a Planet Fitness franchisee, is also looking in the Walnut area. He will be opening a total of four stores over the next three years.
Potbelly was founded in 1977 in Chicago. It offers assembly-line service like Subway, but industry insiders say their sandwiches and dining room setting are much more upscale. The menu also features soups, salads, milkshakes and cookies.
Potbelly falls into the “quick service plus” category. These types of restaurants offer the food quality of fast-casual chains like Panera Bread but at lower fast-food prices. Sandwiches range in price from $5 to $8.
Chris Birkinshaw, senior director of domestic franchising for Potbelly, said customers can treat Potbelly restaurants like neighborhood hangouts. “We’re confident that Californians will quickly come to love our food, our people and our local vibe.”
When Potbelly arrives, it will be a latecomer to Orange County.
Over the last five years, non-California chains invading local malls and strip centers include Jersey Mike’s, Which Wich, Firehouse Subs, Jimmy John’s and Capriotti’s. Some have not performed well including Which Wich and Capriotti’s, which have closed locations in Orange County. A Which Wich in Orange closed in late April.
Potbellly trades on the Nasdaq under the ticker PBPB. Last week, the company reported first quarter revenue of $101.7 million, up 6 percent from the same quarter last year. However,
company-operated same store sales decreased 3.1 percent.
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