Potbelly Sandwich Shop announced that it has selected a location for its first California shop. Currently slated to open in early 2019, the beloved brand’s first shop in the Golden State will be located at 14431 Culver Drive at Walnut Village Center in Irvine.

The widely acclaimed neighborhood hangout features toasty warm sandwiches, hand-dipped milkshakes and live music, all making it “The Best Place for Lunch.” Potbelly shops have earned a reputation in neighborhoods across the United States for having delicious food, local décor and a lively atmosphere.

The Irvine location is the first shop to come out of a multi-unit franchise development deal the brand signed in California last year with Sameer Bhatia, an experienced franchise owner and local resident. Bhatia’s agreement, which will bring an additional three shops to Orange County, represents the beginning of franchise growth to occur throughout Southern California, the East Bay and Central Valley regions of the state.

“It’s a big deal to be the one bringing the first Potbelly to California, and I’m happy to have been chosen to do it as the state’s first franchisee,” says Bhatia. “I am a longtime fan of the brand myself and I can’t wait to watch my friends and neighbors in Irvine fall in love with Potbelly’s delicious sandwiches and neighborhood atmosphere.”

A former banker with a focus on the restaurant industry, Bhatia discovered Potbelly when it opened near his Manhattan office and it quickly became his favorite place for lunch in New York City. He made plans to franchise with the brand, and after moving to Southern California to open a Planet Fitness franchise, he had the opportunity to make his Potbelly dream a reality. With his first Potbelly location on its way, Bhatia plans to open three additional shops around the towns of Costa Mesa, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest or Mission Viejo. In total, he will be opening four shops in the area over the next three years.

“We are so excited for Sameer and his team to bring Potbelly to California,” adds Jeff Welch, senior vice president of development for Potbelly Sandwich Shop. “Our shops are designed to resemble the community they reside in, and Sameer’s understanding of the local market makes him the perfect person to establish Potbelly as the neighborhood hangout in South Orange County. We’re confident that Californians will quickly come to love our food, our people and our local vibe.”

Potbelly Sandwich Shop first opened in Chicago in 1977 and operates more than 400 shops across the United States. Franchisees operate more than 35 shops in the United States and abroad, and Potbelly plans to continue franchise growth in 2018.

Fast Casual, News, Potbelly