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Struggling Potbelly Sandwiches to Unveil New Look in Logan Square

The 42-year-old chain is also changing how customers order in hope of survival

New York - Potbelly Sandwich Shop IPO
Potbelly Sandwich Shop is unveiling a new look.
Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop, the chain that debuted 42 years ago in Lincoln Park, appears to be at a crossroads and the company is making some big changes to ensure its survival. The chain’s unveiling a new look, remodeling restaurants in Logan Square and suburban Park Ridge. Those changes will eventually trickle down to other locations nationwide. The layout changes will also alter the way customers order. Guests will now order what they want on their sandwiches all at once instead of bantering with staff while following their food along Potbelly’s customary toaster conveyors.

The Tribune reported the company hasn’t had a major refresh to store design in 20 years. They’re banishing the old wood paneling in favor of a more modern look. No word if they’re permanently exiling those troubadours armed with guitars who occasionally serenade customers with song. Earlier this year the chain began offering meal combos for the first time with half sandwiches bundled with soups or cups of macaroni and cheese or chili.

The company is looking for relevancy, lost in a storm of fast-casual choices. Wisconsin-based Cousins Subs even entered the Chicago market. Last year, for the second-straight year, Potbelly posted a loss ($8.9 million, according to the Trib). The chain’s still moving forward. They’re looking to open 38 franchises in Las Vegas, Tampa, Florida, and North and South Carolinas. The company has about 450 company-operated and franchise-operated locations throughout America.

A message to a Potbelly spokesperson wasn’t immediately returned.