Executives at Chicago-based Potbelly Corp. reported during the brand’s third-quarter earnings call that they were pleased with the first period in which Potbelly operated as a publicly traded company and that they were optimistic the brand could deliver on its growth targets over the near term.

“We compete in the fast-casual category and the sandwich category. At the intersection of those two spaces, we think the concept has a lot of room to grow,” chairman and chief executive Aylwin Lewis said.

For the Sept. 29-ended third quarter, Potbelly’s adjusted net income grew 26.7 percent, excluding the impact of a major dividend payment that was part of its initial public offering in October.

Despite slightly negative traffic, the brand of 307 restaurants reported a 2.5-percent increase in same-store sales at its 288 company-operated stores. During the quarter, Potbelly opened eight corporate restaurants and one franchised unit, and the chain is projecting between 40 and 42 total openings for fiscal 2013.

In the next year, Potbelly projects 35 to 40 company-owned restaurant openings and expects 60 percent of its new units to be built in legacy markets like Chicago and Washington, D.C., and 40 percent in new “hub” cities they entered more recently, like Seattle, Boston, New York City and Phoenix.