What's In Store

Chicago sandwich shop hopes to open at least 4 Charlotte locations

Including opening at least four restaurants in Charlotte in the near term, Chicago-based Potbelly Sandwich Works also wants to expand into Raleigh/Durham, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem, Cary and Wilmington. A Greensboro store is already planned.
Including opening at least four restaurants in Charlotte in the near term, Chicago-based Potbelly Sandwich Works also wants to expand into Raleigh/Durham, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem, Cary and Wilmington. A Greensboro store is already planned. SPECIAL / RICHARD W. RODRIGUEZ

Charlotte is poised to get another national fast-casual chain that’s gained popularity in New York and the District of Columbia.

Potbelly Sandwich Works, which said in December it’s eyeing new markets nearby, is still looking for franchisees in Charlotte as it continues its expansion into North Carolina. The Chicago-based chain offers toasted sub sandwiches, fresh-made salads, breakfast sandwiches, milkshakes, smoothies, soups and cookies.

Rick Fossali, Potbelly’s senior director of domestic franchising, said the company’s real estate team has identified “high potential markets” in which it wants to grow. Including opening at least four restaurants in Charlotte in the near term, Potbelly also wants to expand into Raleigh/Durham, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem, Cary and Wilmington. A Greensboro store is already planned.

Fossali said it’s Charlotte’s demographics, its neighborhoods and its rapid business growth that make the city an attractive new market. He said Potbelly is pretty specific about the kind of local franchisees it’s looking for.

“We know we want to be there, but we take a lot of time and effort to make sure we choose not just a franchisee but the right franchisee,” he said. “We really want folks who are from there, understand it, know where to go, live there and can really drive our neighborhood shop theme.”

Potbelly has expanded rapidly across the country in recent years. It currently operates over 350 store locations across the country -- and that count is up from 307 stores in 2013, and 269 in 2012.

“This is going to be an awesome thing for the area,” Fossali said. “Once we get going in the state, it’s going to take off. This is a great opportunity for folks that are looking for something that is proven and successful in a lot of other areas even similar in size and market as Charlotte.”

Another D.C. and New York fast-casual favorite, Chop’t Creative Salad Company, said it plans to open multiple restaurants in Charlotte, starting with the first in the Park Road Shopping Center this summer.

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Twitter: @katieperalta

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