Potbelly Shares Culture, Values with MEF Business Apprentices

On Wednesday, July 20, over 30 Midtown & Metro high school business apprenticeship students gathered at Potbelly’s central Support Center to go behind the scenes and see what it is like to run an iconic brand like Potbelly!

The career day was a culminating field trip after a successful spring fundraising partnership with Potbelly. Through their six-week long Cookie Collision Milkshake Fundraiser and Give-back Day at four locations, Potbelly raised over $5,000 to support the MEF Business Apprenticeships this summer! Potbelly CEO Aylwin Lewis presented the check to the six CEOs of the student run businesses and emphasized the great parallels between Potbelly’s values & MEF’s approach to Character Education. 

Lori Haughey, VP of Ops Services and Culinary, welcomed the MEF students highlighting the core similarities between Midtown Educational Foundation and Potbelly. “So many of your values align with ours,” Lori exclaimed as her team spent the morning highlighting the MEF-shared values that define Potbelly’s culture: integrity, accountability, positive energy and the importance of coaching.

The business apprentices heard from three Potbelly store managers who work at some of Chicago’s busiest locations. Scott, Hector and Saribeth gave the students an inside look at what it means to lead a team at Potbelly, how much they love Potbelly food and how they have overcome challenges as managers to lead happy, positive, effective teams. Saribeth started at Potbelly as an associate over 14 years ago. When asked why she has stayed so long, she didn’t hesitate to answer, “The culture, the fact that this is a company I can trust, and the people.”

Mark Wenger, Senior Manager of Production, took students behind the scenes into Potbelly’s workshop, where they produce all of the signage and neighborhood-centric store decor. A video of the start-to-finish process on creating a custom Blues Brothers table for a new Joliet store captivated the students—Matt then delighted them by revealing the actual tabletop. Surprises continued to flow as he then revealed two Potbelly-décor inspired community message boards custom made for Midtown & Metro centers! “That’s the nicest thing we’ll have on the walls at Midtown,” one of the students remarked.

After a delicious Potbelly lunch, students broke out into sessions where they heard from the various departments in the Support Center that help each Potbelly store make people really happy everyday as they strive to be the best place for lunch. Students heard from employees in IT, HR, accounting, marketing, and real estate—and were delighted to learn that one of the presenters in HR, Candice Hurst, is a Metro alumna from the early 90s! Candice, the day’s presenters and Potbelly’s executive team beamed as the students shared their take-away lessons and thanked the team for an enriching day immersed in the awesome Potbelly culture!