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Cult Midwest Sandwich Chain Potbelly Expanding to Southern California

The popular fast casual sandwich chain has its rabid fans

Stock Of Sandwich Shop Potbelly Soars After Its IPO
Potbelly Sandwich Shop in New York City
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

If you’ve ever flown into an airport in the Midwest or walked around the Chicagoland area, you’ve likely seen Potbelly, a popular sandwich chain with a cult following. Today the outlet announces officially that they’ve signed on an Orange County franchisee that will bring the chain to California.

The formula they use isn’t too different from Quizno’s, with a toasted sandwich model that banks on deli meats and full customization, though the signature “A Wreck” sandwich, which uses turkey, roast beef, ham, and salami with Swiss cheese, is perhaps the most popular pick.

The plan is to open four OC locations in the next three years from franchisee Sameer Bhatia, who also owns a Planet Fitness franchise. Bhatia fell in love with the Potbelly chain when it opened near his office in Manhattan and wanted to bring the cult sandwich shop to California. The plan right now is to open a location in Laguna Beach, Walnut, Lake Forest, Irivine, or Newport Beach within the first year, then expand afterwards. Potbelly was founded in Chicago in 1977 with more than 400 outlets across the U.S.

With entries from Ike’s Place and Earl of Sandwich, plus Jimmy John’s in recent years, the fast casual sandwich market is likely to become more crowded in the Southern California area. Also, more established chains like Subway and Quizno’s have been on the decline for the past few years, making way for these new competitors to enter the market.

How do you feel about Potbelly? Are you a huge fan that’s enjoyed their sandwiches over the years, or is this just a ho-hum expansion to a region that has plenty of great offerings already? Hit the comments with your thoughts.