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Potbelly Sandwich Shop, which closed over 100 units during the coronavirus pandemic, has named a new CEO for its turnaround.

Potbelly names Wendy's COO, Robert D. Wright, as new CEO

Wright replaces Alan Johnson, who spent nearly three years trying to turnaround the company.

Potbelly Corp. has named Robert D. Wright, former chief operations officer at Wendy's, as the company's new president and chief executive officer effective today, July 20. He succeeds Alan Johnson, who spent the last few years trying to turnaround the Chicago-based sandwich chain through a series of efforts that included revamping the menu and pushing digital sales. 

Wright is a 30-year industry veteran who most recently served as executive vice president and COO of The Wendy’s Company. He ran operations for more than 6,000 company and franchise restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.  Prior to Wendy's, he has held various corporate roles at Charley’s Philly Steaks, Checker’s Drive-In Restaurants, Inc., and Domino’s Pizza, Inc.

"We are thrilled to welcome a new leader with extensive restaurant operating experience," Joe Boehm, Potbelly’s lead director said in a statement. "Bob’s ability to quickly identify and leverage brand strengths, as well as his substantial operations expertise, make him uniquely equipped to lead Potbelly during this critical time for our Company.  He drove dramatic improvement in guest satisfaction at Wendy’s, and Potbelly will greatly benefit from his vision, leadership, and drive to successfully transform our business."

Potbelly plans to tap into Wright's experinece with refranchising. At Wendy's he transition 1,100 company restaurants to franchise ownership.

"We expect to leverage this experience as we return to system growth," Boehm stated.

At the end of fiscal 2019, Potbelly had 474 restaurants. Of those, only 46 were franchised, according to NRN's Top 200 census.

NRN estimated Latest Year U.S. system sales of $441.7 million, down 2.2% from estimated $451.6 million in 2018.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

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