Potbelly Sandwich Works announced yesterday that Aylwin B. Lewis joined the company as its president and CEO. Founder and former CEO Bryant Keil, will continue in his role as chairman of the board of directors. “When I bought that original store on Lincoln Avenue back in 1996, I had a vision of how great Potbelly could become. I am proud to say that we now have over 200 stores in 13 states and we are on our way to fulfilling that vision. I had been contemplating a transition from the CEO role for some time, but I had not found someone I was confident really understood Potbelly and was capable of leading us into our next stage of growth. After meeting Aylwin, it was clear that he was the right person for the job and that it was the right time to pass the baton. Aylwin has terrific restaurant industry experience and knowledge, but more importantly, Aylwin is a great fit for the Potbelly culture. I am excited to begin our long term partnership as we continue to bring the Potbelly experience to more and more people across the country. As Chairman and a large shareholder in the company, I plan to remain very involved in the leadership and direction of the company.”
Most recently, Lewis, 54 served as CEO and president of Sears Holdings. Prior to his role as CEO at Sears Holdings, he served as the president and CEO of both Kmart and Sears Retail. Lewis was president, chief multi-branding and operating officer of YUM! Brands, Inc., the parent of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, among other restaurant concepts, from 2000 until October 2004, and the COO of Pizza Hut from 1996 to 2000. He has over 26 years of restaurant experience. Lewis is a member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company.
Lewis states, “I am thrilled to join Potbelly Sandwich Works. I see clearly how the quality of the food and the enthusiasm of the people I have met result in an amazing customer experience. I look forward to building on the strong foundation we have and, working with Bryant and the rest of the team, to make Potbelly an iconic national brand. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to help build a world class company.”
Keil will also focus energies on Intrinsic Holdings, a company he co-founded to acquire and invest in consumer and hospitality focused businesses. He notes, “I believe the experience I have had in growing Potbelly from one store to the brand it is today will be invaluable to Intrinsic as we pursue and grow companies with a demonstrated consumer following.”