Fresh, fast, friendly. That’s the promise Potbelly Sandwich Shop has been sticking to for the past three-and-a-half decades. But there’s more to the popular lunch spot than toasted fare and its eponymous stove.
1. BEFORE THEY SOLD SANDWICHES, THEY SOLD ANTIQUES.
The first Potbelly opened in Chicago in 1977—as an antiques store. But the young owners soon, er, craved a new challenge and began cooking sandwiches in their shop’s potbelly stove. Soon locals were lining up for the tasty toasted lunches and the store’s heirlooms became unique decor.
2. THE FOUNDING CHAIRMAN HAS SOME BUSINESS SAVVY.
In 1996, Chicago entrepreneur Bryant Keil discovered and purchased the quirky shop. Within a year, he’d created another. By 2003 he had been named Illinois Restaurateur of the Year. “My dad thought I was crazy,” he’s said of the venture, “but I knew there was a model for success there.”
3. ALL OF THE SHOPS HAVE A TOASTY ATMOSPHERE.
Keeping true to its name, each of the 280-plus shops (across the U.S. and in the U.K., United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain) has its own potbelly stove.
4. THEY HOST LOCAL MUSICIANS ALL THE TIME.
The company’s dedication to local talent means that on any given day a musician is performing live at a Potbelly somewhere in the United States. The chain has also had franchises host fundraisers for high school bands and open-mic nights, in case you wanted to bring your guitar along for dinner.
5. NO TWO SHOPS LOOK EXACTLY ALIKE.
There’s a team of artists and craftspeople at the Potbelly workshop whose job it is to decorate each store. They scour neighborhoods for artifacts and artwork that reflect the area.
6. FRESH INGREDIENTS ARE A MUST...
According to the company website, most of their meats and cheeses are hand-sliced in shop. Their much-raved about chicken salad is also made in-store using the founder’s original five-ingredient recipe.
7. ... AS IS FAST SERVICE.
Potbelly’s vow: they’ll move you through any line in eight minutes—max. You yell out your shake or smoothie order first so they'll have it ready when you get to the registers, and then you get to watch for your base sandwich—the bread, meat, and cheese—go through the conveyor toaster before you claim it and have condiments added. And if you want chips, you have time to browse the rack while your sammie gets toasted.
8. THEIR SIGNATURE SANDWICH IS A WRECK.
Literally, that’s what it’s called. A meat-lover’s dream, it’s a mix of roast beef, salami, turkey breast, ham and Swiss cheese. And you might as well add all the toppings, and then snap a pic for #wreckwednesday (which is almost entirely populated by sandwiches, bull-riding and motor-racing events).
9. POTBELLY HAS MORE THAN JUST SANDWICHES.
They do have regular dessert items like fresh-baked cookies, dream bars and classic shakes, but they maintain a series of seasonal shakes and smoothies as well, like the summertime pineapple coconut smoothie or a wintertime peppermint twist shake. And, each dessert beverage is topped off with a cute mini cookie on its straw, for those who need a crunch at the end of their meal.
10. THERE'S A STARBUCKS CONNECTION.
11. THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA HAS PERSONALITY.
Along with drool-worthy pictures and celebrity quotes, their Twitter account boasts corny riddles. Why did the cookie go to the doctor? Because it was feeling “crumby”, of course! They're like the Laffy Taffy of the toasted sandwich world!