Potbelly Sandwich Shop opens in Springfield

Potbelly Sandwich Shop opened its first Springfield location on March 26. The restaurant inside the Memorial Learning Center, 228 W. Miller St., offers in-store dining, delivery and catering.

In fall 2022, Rob Wilbern, a certified public accountant who also owns Robert’s Automotive and several other businesses in Springfield, signed a franchise agreement with the parent company for Potbelly. He announced plans to open a total of five stores throughout central Illinois, but said identifying appropriate locations has been a challenge.

“Finding real estate is hard,” Wilbern previously told SBJ. “The west side of Springfield was our first choice, but we were unable to locate space. We pivoted and went to Champaign, but spent a good year looking there." The Champaign location opened in January, which was when Wilbern also confirmed plans for the Springfield store. 

He told SBJ that Memorial Health agreed to close its existing café, Food for Thought, and Potbelly's will provide the hospital a portion of its sales for rent. 

click to enlarge Potbelly Sandwich Shop opens in Springfield
The first Springfield location for Potbelly Sandwich Shop will be inside the Memorial Learning Center.

Wilbern said the central location in the Medical District was a deciding factor. “You’ve got the Simmons Cancer Institute across the street, the Baylis center, Springfield Clinic has two buildings there, St. John’s is just a short jaunt away. And there aren’t many (dining) options in the Medical District.”

Wilbern said he also likes the proximity to downtown. “One of the main focuses for us is going to be the catering side of the business and to try to serve downtown Springfield, including all the state agencies nearby.”

As far as what’s next, Wilbern hasn’t given up on finding a west-side location in Springfield. “There’s nothing definite, but we’ve pursued multiple properties. We’re talking to a landlord right now and waiting to see what happens with the current tenant,” he said.

He said he’s also purchased a food truck that will be going back and forth between Champaign and Springfield once the weather warms up. “We’re going to focus on events that have 500 people or more,” Wilbern said.

Potbelly first opened in Chicago in 1977 and has now expanded to 400 corporate-owned locations throughout the U.S. and another 40 franchised restaurants. The company is planning to increase the number of franchisees and target additional markets throughout the country as part of a franchise growth acceleration initiative.

Hours of operation for this location will be 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

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