As if you needed further proof that the whole Potbelly’s aesthetic is a scam, my roommate (who for legal purposes–real or imagined–must remain nameless) tells me that when the electricity goes out, the store has to stop. They don’t even have a Potbelly stove, and it doesn’t matter, because when they don’t have the Internet, they don’t even get orders. And even though I feel like I see olde thyme cash registers in the stores, they still need electricity for credit cards and probably for cash too, if anyone uses that.
There’s some aesthetic in bad Folk-Americana bands that seems just like Potbelly. Moustaches and vests and stuff, but they release their music via Spotify. It’s a time period as pure aesthetic, thus free from any tiresome notion of authenticity.
Because I think that Potbelly and those bands are all pretty up front about the artifice, they aren’t really trying to fool you. And no one is fooled, which is why we can all agree that it’s no surprise that Potbelly needs electricity to work. It’s a chain restaurant.
Sometimes it feels like all the referencing of other time periods feels like it’s making up for the paucity of ideas in our own, but there’s really no reason to feel that way. Brand management and band aesthetics are sort of on a continuum–in our less cynical moments, they’re perhaps two ways of coming to the same conclusion, but I suspect they’re both playing on the same impulse, the same quality that makes Potbelly pig and ape in Artis Zoo, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1960, March 28 so attractive: the copyright has lapsed, or it is being offered freely by the National Archives of the Netherlands.