Entrepreneur and Chairman Bryant Keil of Potbelly Sandwich Works, LLC, participates in several of Chicago’s professional and nonprofit organizations. As the Co-Chairman of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, he facilitates the acquisition of resources and assistance needed by regional businesses to develop a thriving enterprise. Moreover, he supports the local business community through his involvement with the Young Presidents’ Organization and the Economic Club of Chicago. Bryant Keil also contributes to Big Shoulders, Rush NeuroBehavioral Center, and The Alain Locke Initiative. A Chicago native, Bryant Keil fell in love with the made-to-order sandwiches created at a small antique shop on Lincoln Avenue. Possessing a strong entrepreneurial drive, he saw a business opportunity in the establishment, purchasing it in 1996. Within a year, he opened an additional location, leading to a period of exponential expansion. Through Mr. Keil’s leadership, Potbelly Sandwich Shop has more than 200 locations across the country, with new franchises opening regularly. Since taking over Potbelly, Bryant Keil has worked tirelessly to maintain the ambiance and quality food of the iconic first store. To that end, the same careful preparation is put into each sandwich and customer service remains a top priority. By maintaining this culture, he has turned Potbelly into one of Inc. magazine’s and Crain’s Chicago Business’ fastest growing companies in the nation. Bryant Keil has been spotlighted for his personal efforts as well, earning Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Illinois Restaurateur of the Year from the Illinois Restaurant Association. Additionally, the Aspen Institute recently named him to its prestigious Henry Crown Fellowship Program. 

Work experience

Work experience
1977 - Present

Founder and Chairman

Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Potbelly Sandwich Shop began in 1977 as a small antique store run by a nice young couple. Despite the fast-paced, never-a-dull-moment world of antique dealing, the couple decided to bolster their business by making sandwiches for their customers. What began as a lark, turned out to be a stroke of genius. Soon, people who couldn't care less about vintage glass doorknobs were stopping by to enjoy special sandwiches and homemade desserts in this unusual atmosphere. As the years passed, the lines grew. Booths were added, along with ovens for toasting sandwiches to perfection, vista-coolers, napkin dispensers, hand-dipped ice cream - even live music. The little antique shop had become a full-fledged, totally unique sandwich joint. Then in 1996, an entrepreneurial young man by the name of Bryant Keil bought the original store on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Together with his team, Bryant obsessed over every detail of each new store, making sure that they maintained the same charm and heritage. Now more than 200 shops later we hope you find that same magic in your neighborhood Potbelly.