Rival chain to Pret and Subway agrees UK franchise deal

Potbelly Sandwich Shop

A US fast-casual brand with nearly 400 sites to its name has confirmed plans to open a series of sites in the UK as it turns its attention to international growth.

Chicago-based Potbelly Sandwich Shop, which will seek to take a bite out of the Subway and Pret market, will open its maiden restaurant at ‘The Street’ in Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre this summer.

The launch will kickstart an investment programme with master franchisee Buraq Retail that will see at least 10 stores opened in London in the next five years.

Buraq Retail, which is backed by Sheikh Holdings, said the first site at Stratford would occupy a 1,870 square foot space and seat 90 people.

In the US, Potbelly has built a reputation for providing freshly prepared hot, toasted sandwiches, made-to-order salads and daily baked cookies. The company’s CEO, Aylwin Lewis, a former president of Yum! Brands, is now focused on taking the brand to a wider audience by embarking on a “period of rapid international expansion”.

In the UK, the company plans to look at sites within high footfall locations across high streets, shopping centres and transport hubs.

Lewis said: “Potbelly is continuing our international growth alongside our consistent US expansion of between 48 and 55 new units per year. We’re hugely excited to be bringing our legendary sandwiches to the UK for the first time. It’s a market we’ve been watching closely and Sheikh Holdings are the perfect partners to represent the brand going forward in the UK.”

The brand says its intention is to inject some excitement into London’s “competitive but stagnant sandwich market”.

Sheikh Holdings director, Akbar Sheikh, said: “Potbelly is a well-loved and hugely successful restaurant chain in the US that been going for almost 40 years. The concept has a buzzing atmosphere and a diverse offering that will have strong appeal to the discerning London customer. We are very pleased to be opening the flagship store with Westfield which represents the first Potbelly in Europe.”

Potbelly will sell hot, toasted sandwiches with classic American combinations, authentic soups and bespoke salads, with all ingredients sourced locally. It also plans to introduce some new sandwiches for the British market, as well as its famous cookies and hand-dipped milkshakes.

It will open from breakfast till evening and will have local musicians performing live during the day, which has been a defining part of the Potbelly experience since it first opened in 1977.

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