Wetzel’s Pretzels is developing plans for a stand-alone large-format unit of Twisted by Wetzel as it continues to offer a portfolio of sizes ranging from kiosks in department stores and convenience stores to food trucks.
Jennifer Schuler, CEO of Pasadena, Calif.-based Wetzel’s, shared her brand’s multiple strategies for “Unlocking Growth Through Flexible Store Footprints” during a CREATE Live session on Wednesday. The session, which is available upon request, was sponsored by Radar.
“We jokingly call it bringing pretzels to people,” Schuler said, adding that the company intends to bring pretzels and lemonade to “people where they might want to have that kind of snack.”
Wetzel’s is dedicated to offering flexible formats “to give people access to a product from a brand they love,” Schuler said.
Wetzel’s, a 28-year-old brand, currently has 350 units, ranging from traditional mall food court formats to a newer 10-foot-by-10-foot kiosk at a Macy’s department store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Alaska. California.
The success of the Macy’s kiosk unit led the department store to consider additional outlets at Macy’s Union Square in San Francisco and New York.
The new units are aimed at “consumers who are changing the way they eat,” Schuler said, adding that they are turning to “mini-meals on the go.”
This change in consumer behavior has led the company to think bigger, she said.
“We’re working on launching a new format called Twisted by Wetzel’s, which will be a street-based format,” Schuler said. “We’re going to start here in California, where the brand was born and raised, and we have strong franchise space.” The menu, which is in development, would feature more substantial items such as loaded pretzel pieces and protein.
“It’s a complete expansion of the menu using the pretzels as the centerpiece,” she added, “but turning it into all kinds of new shapes and flavors that the brand’s second-generation customers will really appreciate and enjoy. we can put in both street locations or we can put next to colleges and universities.”
Schuler, who said the company is still negotiating leases, is expected to open two of the Twisted units “by the end of this year or early next year.”
The pandemic appears to have accelerated a snacking trend, Schuler added, and is tied to the varied formats.
“What I’ve seen is this huge shift in the way consumers eat,” she noted. “Over the past decade, they’ve tripled the amount of snacks. So that means you’re seeing fewer consumers eating three meals with a small snack. Millennials and Gen Z have replaced meals with snacks and are using them as a mini meal.
That gave Wetzel’s pretzels a tailwind, she added, and same-store sales were up 20% or 30%.
Macy’s has also been looking at ways to add kiosks to its stores. The first South Coast Plaza unit “has decoupled baking from the outlet, so we have a very tight, very compact format,” Schuler said.
To accommodate the smaller unit, Schuler said the brand relied on its simple menu.
“This brand has always been synonymous with simplicity,” she said. “We talk about pretzels, dogs, lemonade. When you keep it simple, it gives you plenty of room for creativity.
Schuler said the development team also fleshed out its food truck offerings, building on the same small footprint.
“When you’re doing a store model in a store, you’re operating in someone else’s house. You’re a guest in their home, and so it’s really critical for us to operate to Macy’s standards,” she said. “Fortunately for Wetzel’s, we have experienced this. We have been operating in Disneyland and Disney World and have been doing so for approximately 18 years.
No matter the size, Wetzel looks at real estate that can generate top-notch sales, Schuler said.
“It’s about making sure we have the right return on investment for franchisees,” Schuler said, getting “a good return on investment on the cost of that equipment and on the footprint.”
Wetzel’s Pretzels will also continue its partnership with companies like Walmart and convenience store brands like Extra Mile and Phillips 66, she said.
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