Potbelly Corp. adds to turnaround team

by MEAT+POULTRY Staff
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CHICAGO – Potbelly Corporation named Brandon Rhoten as senior vice president and chief marketing officer as part of the company’s drive to assemble an executive team that will execute a turnaround strategy.

In his role at Potbelly, Rhoten will oversee all aspects of the company’s marketing including brand strategy, digital marketing, social media, research, loyalty, direct marketing and advertising.

“The kind of marketer who would have Boyz II Men sing to a cheeseburger and give a year of chicken nuggets to a high schooler for earning the most retweets in history will definitely bring the quirky fun back to Potbelly,” said Alan Johnson, president and CEO of Potbelly. “Brandon’s experience and approach are perfectly aligned with the direction we are setting to expand our brand presence in a world where social and digital drive the conversation. We look forward to leveraging his many years of creativity, brand strategy, bold and disruptive marketing, and success with other well-known consumer brands. This is an exciting time for Potbelly.”

Rhoten joins Potbelly from Papa John’s International Inc., where he was Global CMO for a little more than a year. Before that, he served as vice president of Advertising, Media and Digital/Social at Wendy’s International where his team received industrywide recognition for its highly successful digital/social media campaigns that are credited with the turnaround of the brand. Rhoten started his career in marketing at the advertising agency Gyro.

“The second you walk through the door of a Potbelly, it’s clear this place is like no other sandwich restaurant,” Rhoten said. “Potbelly is THE brand in the space that can truly be interesting. I’m excited to join the team so we can make the sandwich category irresistible for consumers again.”

Rhoten joins several other accomplished restaurant executives with franchise, off-premise, culinary and marketing expertise:

Jeff Welch, senior vice president of Franchise Development, brings more than 30 years of franchise, real estate and operations experience to Potbelly. Before joining Potbelly, Welch held positions at Krispy Kreme, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC.

Debbie White, vice president of Off-Premise, joins Potbelly with more than 25 years of sales and marketing leadership experience gained from her tenure at PepsiCo, Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza. Her primary focus will be to capture the significant growth potential across all dayparts in catering, delivery, grab and go and curbside pickup.

Chef Ryan LaRoche, vice president of Culinary Innovation, is a Michelin-starred chef with more than 20 years of success in culinary production from fine dining to fast casual. He was Executive Chef at Park Hyatt Washington, Executive Sous Chef to Chef Joël Robuchon and most recently was vice president of Culinary Operations at Mariano’s.

“We are excited to have Brandon, Jeff, Debbie and Chef Ryan join the Potbelly team,” Johnson said. “We remain focused on building the right team to establish the foundation to reposition Potbelly for sustainable profitable growth over the long term. I am confident that our best days are ahead of us.”

Potbelly is a neighborhood sandwich shop concept with more than 450 company owned shops in the United States and 50 franchised locations in the US, Canada, the Middle East, the United Kingdom and India. The first Potbelly store opened in 1977 in Chicago.

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