Food franchises are top of mind for a large number of today’s franchise business opportunity seekers. But, why?
Well, for one, food franchises are very visible; they’re everywhere.
Food franchises can be found in malls and strip centers…even in travel plazas.
Another reason…and this is a very common one I hear from people who contact me, “people have to eat.”
Franchise Interviews: Auntie Anne’s®
In addition to traditional locations like the ones mentioned above, there are also “non-traditional” locations that savvy franchisors are including in their franchise offerings.
The world’s largest soft pretzel franchise-Auntie Anne’s®, is one such franchisor.
For proof, all you have to do is ask some of today’s college kids. They’re enjoying soft pretzels from Auntie Anne’s on campus.
That’s right: Auntie Anne’s franchises can be added to existing food courts…even student unions. Talk about serving a captive audience!
I wanted to find out more about Auntie Anne’s-and their locations, and Okey Reese, The Vice-President of Real Estate for Auntie Anne’s, was happy to oblige.
Are you ready to learn about Auntie Anne’s-from the inside?
Could this well-known food franchise be the one for you?
Auntie Anne’s Franchise Interview
Me: How long have you been the Vice President of Real Estate and what is it about your job that gets you up in the morning?
Okey: I have been the Vice President of Real Estate for four months, though I’ve been in the Retail Real Estate Industry for more than 11 years. One thing I like about my role is the variety of people I interact with on any given day. From real estate partners, to franchisees, to corporate partners, there are a lot of relationships that come into play.
Real estate retail strategy is an ever-evolving world where communication between our franchisees, real estate partners, and corporate associates must happen clearly, fully, and often quickly. I enjoy providing guidance in that process and creating win-win scenarios for everyone involved.
Me: What makes the Auntie Anne’s Pretzel franchise opportunity special? Unique?
Okey: Our products, brand recognition and strength, and emphasis on relational business, all combine to make us unique. Our pretzel products, for starters, are the best product in their category, and they’re among the best products in the entire snack food category.
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Our brand’s durability is outstanding – there are not many snack or retail brands that don’t come in and out of trend. Our brand is an exception. In our 26 year history we have had only two-years of non-comp/store growth. We stay innovative. We stay relevant. That sets us apart.
Our relationships also set up apart. Within the mall world, you’d be challenged to find a brand that has as good of a reputation and connection with landlords. We are one of the most respected brands in the industry – in the franchise community and in the landlord/developer community. Our relationship with landlords across the county in different venue types is a distinct advantage.
We don’t have a ‘grow for the sake of growing’ strategy. We operate under a ‘grow in the right place, at the right time, for the right reasons’ strategy.
“Think about it, you can’t really have a pretzel and not be happy”
– Okey Reese
Me: What are some of the backgrounds of your most successful franchisees?
Okey: There is no one mold. They come from all walks and backgrounds. From the experienced multi-unit owners, to the single store owner-operator, our successful franchisees are represented in a variety of former industries, involvements, and levels of ownership experience. I love that about Auntie Anne’s.
I don’t think there is a silver-bullet to what a successful franchise partner is/has. They are joining a team where they really believe in what we’re doing. It’s a way to make money, but it’s a way to be involved in the community. It’s a way to brighten a person’s day. For that reason it’s hard for them to not have a passion for what they’re doing. And they bring that to work with them every day.
The model we have to support and guide our franchisees is something that only takes willingness to succeed with. I think that’s why so many different types of people have been so successful within the Auntie Anne’s franchise system.
Me: What traits do you look for in a potential Auntie Anne’s franchise owner?
Okey: We don’t have a strict guideline that says – you need to have this much restaurant experience, for instance. What we do is to focus on the relationship. We ask the franchisees what their goals are. What are the opportunities? We work diligently to use what we know and what we can find out about the owner’s situation, and we base winning strategies – developed from years of franchise experience – into the equation.
Now on the flipside of the coin, our franchisees are self-starters. They roll their sleeves up and get things done. They surround themselves with others that share the same level of commitment and passion that helped our founder Anne Beiler propel the business back in early days of Auntie Anne’s. Their passion for the brand and their work ethic, with little doubt, are key components to achieving success in this industry.
Me: What are some of the things you do as a franchisor/VP of Real Estate do to help your franchisees succeed?
Okey: We provide a level of support and involvement that few other franchise companies can claim. Some organizations will say – find a location and let us know how it goes. That’s not our approach.
Our system is built on the insights only gained from experience, of which we have more than 26 years. Through cooperative engagement, we are able to transfer our experience and know-how on to the franchise partner.
We work with each partner throughout the process. From site selection, to grand opening celebrations and beyond, our franchise business consultants visit five to six times as year.
We handcraft, like we hand-roll our pretzels, strategies for each and every unique partner, because each and every partner’s situation is unique. What might work in an enclosed mall, might not apply for a travel plaza location. Store by store there is a unique strategy for each particular site and each franchise partner.
Me: Why should prospective franchise business owners look into your franchise opportunity now?
Okey: We are consistently innovating. This year we began an initiative to reimagine the look and feel of our stores. We launched the first in our category mobile rewards program. We continue to push the envelope to bring in-demand and emerging flavor profiles into our menu. There are new and exciting things happening with our brand every year.
In 2015, we’ll continue to advance upon new location opportunities that fit with our business model. There are growth opportunities even with 1,100 plus stores already opened. It’s a great time to become an Auntie Anne’s franchisee.
Me: Why should the readers of The Franchise King Blog the ones who are interested in becoming franchise owners, (and the people they share this interview with) look into owning an Auntie Anne’s Pretzel franchise instead of another franchise?
Okey: It starts with the product. We are delivering the best product in the pretzel and the snack world and we truly have a product that doesn’t have boundaries. Almost everybody is a pretzel lover. It’s not something that is limited to geography or income level, anyone and everyone is a potential pretzel customer.
The opportunity in selling pretzels versus other concepts is really thrilling. Relatively speaking, hand-rolled soft pretzels are a unique, yet simple (and delicious) product to make. The aroma, the fresh-baked nature, the enthusiasm around the brand, it’s history and it’s culture all make an Auntie Anne’s soft pretzel an irresistible snack that is fun to take to market.
Think about it, you can’t really have a pretzel and not be happy. Try it, have an Auntie Anne’s and see if you aren’t smiling while you’re eating it. It’s comforting, warm, delicious, and it’s fun to produce. Honestly, it sells itself.
Okey, Thanks a lot for all of the great information you shared with my readers.
(Disclosure: Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Sugar pretzels make me smile.)
For more information on how to become an Auntie Anne’s franchise owner, go here.