Potbelly Corp. is shoring up its corporate team with the hiring of several new executives charged with boosting the brand’s image, improving off-premise sales and adding a fine-dining flair to the menu.
On Tuesday, the Chicago-based fast-casual sandwich chain named Brandon Rhoten chief marketing officer. Rhoten previously worked at Papa John’s and Wendy’s. At Potbelly, he will oversee all aspects of the company’s marketing strategy, from social media to loyalty programs.
Potbelly also named Jeff Welch senior vice president of franchise development. Welch has 30 years of franchise operations experience. He previously worked at Krispy Kreme, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC.
“His efforts will build a stronger foundation for franchise expansion, allowing for accelerated growth and an increased mix of franchised units,” Potbelly said.
Debbie White is the company’s new vice president of off-premise. She previously worked at PepsiCo, Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza.
“Potbelly is vastly underpenetrated in its off-premise business. White’s primary focus will be to capture the significant growth potential across all dayparts in catering, delivery, grab-and-go and curbside pickup,” the company said.
Chef Ryan LaRoche was also officially named vice president of culinary innovation. The Michelin-starred chef was mentioned during Potbelly’s first-quarter earnings call in early May. LaRoche, who was hired in April, is charged with product innovation and menu design. He earned a Michelin star as chef de cuisine at NoMi at the Park Hyatt Chicago.
The appointments fall in line with CEO Alan Johnson’s turnaround plan, which he outlined in early May. The struggling 495-unit chain, which explored a sale last year, is relying on menu innovation, off-premise sales and relevant marketing to improve sagging sales.
For the first quarter ended April 1, same-store sales dropped 3.6 percent at Potbelly’s corporate locations.
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