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Tamar Aguilar at work in the London store

MY EXPAT LIFE Tamar Aguilar

After opening Portland’s first Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Tamar Aguilar moved to London to become General Manager of Potbelly’s first European branch. We were curious .....

Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself - where do you come from in the States? I grew up in San Francisco, CA. I lived around the bay area until my mid 20’s. I then moved with my husband to his home town in Min- neapolis, MN, for a few years, and since have lived in Seattle, WA, and Portland, OR. What are your connections with

Potbelly - how long have you been with the company? I have been with Potbelly for almost 12 years. I started out as an assistant manager in Minneapolis and have had the wonderful opportunity to grow with the company and explore new markets. I relocated as a training GM to Seattle at the start of Potbelly’s west coast expansion. I then became a District Manager and pioneered the Portland Oregon shops. Now I am in the UK help- ing to support our first European franchise group. Had you visited Britain before

coming over with Potbelly? Not at all. I had done some traveling in the EU after college but never made it to the UK. I am a big reader of classic novels and have loved the BBC period dramas on tv since I was a kid. So I have been so excited to explore the UK. What do you enjoy most about

being here? I love the feel and sense of history

28 The American

in everything. From the look of the buildings with the rod iron gates, to the market stalls and pubs that have remained in the same spot for generations. At home we just don’t have the same sense of history and grandeur on this kind of scale. Is there anything you miss from back in the States? (A bit of an ironic question given you’re bring- ing a brand that many Americans over here I’m sure miss!) I miss the traditional foods I am used to during the holidays and real Mexican food. It took a lot of look- ing for Thanksgiving ingredients and I would kill for good enchiladas and mole sauce. When I went home I ate Mexican food an entire week. The Potbelly brand evokes a lot of memories for Americans, what is the biggest challenge in bring- ing such a well known American brand across the pond and intro- ducing it to the UK? The biggest challenge has been getting the Brits to understand the Potbelly culture. In the US if you have been to a Potbelly you know that we talk and joke with our cus- tomers and treat them as our family of regulars. I think some Brits find it odd when we try to converse and get to know them as we make their food. I know that we will win them over in the end. Our staff is super friendly and will help spread the Potbelly love and culture.

Have you had to change the

brand or the experience for the UK market? Potbelly has its own customer experience in every shop, we have kept Stratford true to the US setup. What’s the secret to a great,

authentic American sandwich? We found wonderful partners here in the UK to supply items according to our recipes. The bakers worked hard to get the cookies and bread just right, our suppliers looked everywhere to match the taste and profile specifications. We have ended up with an almost exact match to what you would get if you were in Chicago eating at your neighbourhood shop. What makes Potbelly special?

It comes down to three simple things. People - we staff friendly hard working associates that enjoy what they do. Product - Quality ingredients are the basis for any good food. Place - we strive to be a neighbour destination by having comfy seats and live music. What’s the future for Potbelly

and for you in the UK? We plan to open many more shops and I plan to be here to help sup- port the growth. I love being in the UK.

What’s the best thing about

being Tamar Aguilar? That I have had many opportunities in my life for travel and adventure.

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