Not only surviving, but prospering

With new product offerings in the pipeline, Auntie Anne's is capitalising on the continued buoyancy of food retail

It is good to hear that some businesses are not only surviving, but prospering in these challenging times. Auntie Anne's is the world's largest hand-rolled soft pretzel chain specializing in on-the-go snack and meal options and is poised to expand to over 20 locations throughout the UK and Ireland in the next 18 months through a sub-franchising programme.

The Auntie Anne's business model consists of baking and selling delicious, freshly baked soft, sweet and savoury pretzels and offering a variety of proprietary drinks. Auntie Anne's was founded in the USA back in 1988, now with almost 1,000 stores worldwide selling this great product we are tipped for expansion in the exciting UK food retail market, which is going from strength to strength even in these challenging times!

With eight existing Auntie Anne's stores based in a variety of locations including transport centres and shopping mall locations, franchisees that become part of the network will have the opportunity to create 100 new jobs in the next 12 months. All our franchisees must adhere and focus on the Auntie Anne's three fold philosophy: 'At Auntie Anne's we serve fresh, hot, golden brown soft Pretzels with friendly customer service in a sparkling clean store.'

The product is unique in the UK with Auntie Anne's own specially formulated recipe which is used to make the delicious sweet pretzels including cinnamon and vanilla sugar varieties, savoury pretzels with sesame and jalapeno ingredients and Pretzel hot dogs. The soon to be introduced Pretzel Pockets (like a Cornish pasty but better!) will add a whole new market opportunity for the franchise network, serving lunchtime customers, commuters at train and bus stations, as well as those just wanting an on-the-go meal option. With these products, complemented by freshly made lemonade, coffee and the full range of soft drinks, Auntie Anne's has a product offering to suit every taste.

Our Pretzels are freshly baked every 30 minutes at each store, they contain no transfats or additives and retail for between £1.50 and £2.50 depending on the store and type of Pretzel. This freshness makes us unique and with several pretzels very low in fat we are not only a tasty snack but can also be part of a balanced diet. Believe us when we say: 'if you like donuts and bagels, you will love our Pretzels!'

The business in the UK is headed up by an experienced management team including Robert Burton (previously owner of the Dollar/Thrifty Car and Van Rental UK Master Franchise), Mahasti Poursaleki (the longest serving and most successful Auntie Anne's franchise owner based in Cheltenham) and other experienced food retailers including a shortly to be announced investor involved with one of the most successful snack foods in the UK before selling to a major plc.

The opportunity to site Auntie Anne's stores range from traditional shopping centres to airports, railway stations and main town centre high streets with either kiosks or shop units baking and displaying our full range of food and drink. With pressure on landlords to fill vacant space we are being presented with some excellent property opportunities at very competitive lease terms to enable franchise owners to lock into rents which give them the best chance ever to generate a good return on their investment.

The franchise package is comprehensive with training at Auntie Anne's US headquarters as well as in stores in the UK plus assistance in all areas to launch and run their franchise business.

In summary, the current distressed economy has created opportunities for us to operate from some great new locations, providing a product that contains neither additives nor transfats, is freshly baked on site and is just what the shopper or commuter wants to boost their day. Couple this with the knowledge that 2008 saw a general increase in our sales means that an Auntie Anne's franchise is not to be missed.

Reported by Max Burton