Potbelly hires Yum vet Lewis as CEO

CHICAGO Aylwin Lewis, the former chief executive officer of Kmart and its parent company, has joined Potbelly Sandwich Works as president and CEO, officials of the fast-casual chain said Thursday.

Founder and former CEO Bryant Keil said he had been searching for his own replacement for some time and chose Lewis, an alumnus of Yum! Brands Inc., because “he was the right person for the job and it was the right time to pass the baton.” Keil will continue on as chairman of Potbelly.

Lewis most recently was CEO and president of Sears Holdings, following a stint as president and CEO of both Kmart and Sears Retail, the two retail operations that constituted the holding company. From 2000 to 2004, he was president and chief multi-branding and operating officer of Yum. He also has served as chief operating officer of Yum's Pizza Hut brand. Lewis continues to serve on the board of the Walt Disney Co.

Potbelly, based here, has more than 200 stores in 13 states. Keil said he would focus more of his energy on Intrinsic Holdings, a company he co-founded to acquire and invest in consumer and hospitality-focused businesses.