UPDATE: January 22, 2020: In a Jan. 17 regulatory filing, Potbelly announced that CEO Alan Johnson will temporarily assume principal financial officer responsibilities until an interim or permanent CFO is named. The company has been without a finance chief since former CFO Tom Fitzgerald left the company in December after one year.
Prior to joining Potbelly, Johnson gained financial operations experience while serving as CFO-COO for PepsiCo’s Eastern Europe restaurant division and as International Strategic Planning Director for Pizza Hut International.
- After one year in the role, Potbelly Sandwich Works CFO Thomas Fitzgerald is stepping down, the company announced Wednesday.
- Fitzgerald will leave the Chicago-based fast-casual sandwich shop shortly before the new year, after which he will assume a “senior leadership position at another company,” the company said. Restaurant Business said Fitzgerald will be stepping in as CFO of Planet Fitness.
- Potbelly is now on the search for its fourth CFO in under a decade; before Fitzgerald, the company's senior vice president, Mike Coyne, served as finance chief from 2015 until resigning in 2018.
Potbelly is in the middle of a wide-scale executive turnaround. It has closed 11 stores this year, halted new store growth, and hired a third-party firm to help with its turnaround strategy, according to Restaurant Business.
As part of the effort, the company is putting in place a large-scale redesign, which includes the launch of a prototype that flips its interaction with customers: now customers order first and can watch their sandwich being made, as opposed to having their sandwich made first and paying later.
This revamp is more in line with other sandwich chains’ style, which focus more on off-premise channels, like pickup and delivery, over dine-in traffic, the company said.
Potbelly has already begun searching for candidates to fill Fitzgerald's position. The company says it has a “strong internal financial team in place” that will support its strategy while the search is underway.
“Tom has been a strong contributor to Potbelly over the last year and we wish him continued success in the future,” Potbelly CEO Alan Johnson said in a statement. “Our leadership team remains wholly focused on accelerating our transformation. ... We remain confident [in our] path to delivering sustainable positive traffic and comp growth.”
Fitzgerald described his year at Potbelly as “a great experience,” during which time the leadership team, including the finance organization, was strengthened and its strategy sharpened.
Before filling Coyne’s role at Potbelly, Fitzgerald had been president and CFO of the retailer Charming Charlie. Earlier in his career, he served as VP of finance for Tropicana, COO-CFO for Bath & Body Works, CFO of Burlington Coat Factory, COO of Liz Claiborne and chief administrative officer for Sears Canada.
“I am confident that Potbelly is in great hands with Alan and the rest of the team, and that they will successfully complete the turnaround,” Fitzgerald said.
Representatives for Potbelly and for Fitzgerald did not respond to requests for comment.