Cinnabon starts extreme makeover

Bakery brand to test breakfast, lunch and expand beverage offerings

Cinnabon, the 25-year-old quick-service chain known for its proprietary cinnamon rolls, is reinventing itself as a bakery-café concept complete with breakfast and lunch service as well as an expanded beverage program.

Egg sandwiches in the morning, espresso-based beverages and panini-type sandwiches for lunch are set for test this summer, according to the chain’s president, Gary Bales, who spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News Thursday.

The repositioning of the Atlanta-based, 570-unit chain will evolve over a three-year period, he said, and is part of a strategy to increase Cinnabon’s current customer base and attract new users to the brand outside of the mall markets it primarily trades in.

“What’s happening specifically in the malls is traffic is going down and we need to increase the amount of customers who stop in front of our stores,” Bales said. “We need to do that by reinventing the brand over the next three years; that’s what we’re working on now.”

The initiatives at Cinnabon, which is a division of Focus Brands Restaurant Group, are currently being tested or are going into test at the company’s four corporate-owned stores in Houston, Bales said.

“The first step was to develop a more relevant look for our bakeries,” he said. “We tested a whole new redesign in 2009 that featured a much cleaner look with more contemporary dark wood and less clutter. Second, we’re looking for products and product lines that will expand [our customer base] or attract new customers.”

The newest product line will focus on the morning day part and will include breakfast sandwich offerings and combo meals, Bales said. The sandwiches will be made fresh in-store with Cinnabon dough and feature eggs, cheese and sausage or bacon, or just egg and cheese. The combo meals will feature blueberry muffins, hash browns and coffee or orange juice as side items. Breakfast will be priced between $1.49 and $2.49 for the sandwiches and $1.99 to $2.99 for the combo meals. They will be served from 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

“Our breakfast program will go into test in Houston in August,” he said. “The bread in the breakfast sandwiches will be made fresh in-store with Cinnabon dough layered with strips of cheese in the middle. We think this has real potential for us; it’s incremental business.”

In addition to offering breakfast items, Bales said the company is planning to roll out panini-type sandwiches that would fit into either the lunch or snack categories. The sandwiches will feature the same Cinnabon dough and will be composed of smoked turkey, chicken, Angus roast beef or Black Forest ham. The sandwiches will go into test at the end of August or beginning of September, he said.

“In the malls we compete with fast feeders and we want to step above that while remaining affordable,” he said. “We think this will work well as a light lunch or snack alternative. What we’ve found is that people, because of health consciousness, are looking for non-sweet snack occasions. We think we can fit the bill with some of these products.”

Bales did not indicate prices for the lunch or snack items.

The third component in Cinnabon’s transformation is a renewed beverage program to include espresso-based coffee drinks.

“We are actively working on developing a complete espresso-based line of coffee drinks that will allow us to offer lattes, cappuccinos and flavored iced-coffee products,” he said. “This will help us get from just a drip-coffee program to a full coffee line.”

Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected]