Focus Brands — parent company of Auntie Anne's, Jamba, Cinnabon, Carvel, Moe's Southwest Grill, McAlister's Deli and Schlotzsky's — announced Monday the opening of the first Auntie Anne’s drive-thru location cobranded with Jamba in Wylie, Texas on May 17. The announcement emphasizes the company’s new development strategy, which leans into brand collaboration and expansion of their specialty brands outside their traditional footprints in malls and transportation hubs.
“Prior to the pandemic, we already knew that we wanted to extend both Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon out of malls,” Kristen Hartman, the Category President for Focus Brands said. “[…] The thing that we hear most often from consumers is ‘you need to give us access to these great brands.’ So, we've already started down the path of taking these brands street-side and the pandemic really reinforced the importance of that.”
The 1,500-square-foot drive-thru store will feature design elements and menu boards from both brands, with easy access for both first and third-party pickup orders. Although this location won’t currently have a pickup window, future locations of cobranded Focus Brands stores will, depending on location and customer demand. This new Auntie Anne’s/Jamba store will further emphasize brand collaboration by offering combo deals from both sides of the menu.
Although cobranding is not new to Focus Brands (Auntie Anne’s-Cinnabon stores were first introduced in 2013), the company has been working on expanding this development strategy in new ways for a while now, beginning with the announcement of the all-in-one gift cards useable at all Focus Brands stores in September 2020.
Earlier during the pandemic, CEO Jim Holthouser, who was appointed in February 2020, emphasized that they would be rethinking their footprint strategy for traditional mall brands, including pop-up spots and food trucks, along with classic storefronts.
The combined strategies of rethinking store footprints and cobranding will lead to more opportunity to increase profitability for franchisees, Hartman said.
“You're taking two iconic brands, and you're increasing the average volume and the bottom-line profitability for franchisees because you've got two different consumer bases that you're bringing together,” Hartman said. “Your customer may come in one day for a healthy smoothie from Jamba, and then the next day they’ll want to satisfy that Auntie Anne’s craving. It’s about building all of the foot traffic and the frequency that that drives volume and profitability for our brands.”
This Auntie Anne’s/Jamba store in Texas is only the beginning. The next set of cobranded stores will be Cinnabon-Carvel and those will feature more menu innovation that integrates both brands, like soft serve ice cream in a Cinnabon cone. Some stores will be more integrated, and others will be more like two experiences in one place, depending on geographic location and consumer need.
Moving forward down the development pipeline, Focus Brands is focusing on technology integration and leveraging loyalty programs across all brands. They also plan to develop aggressively across newer store prototypes.
“As we continue to move forward and evolve the brand out of malls, we know that drive-thrus will be a key in that part of development,” Focus Brands chief development officer Brian Krause said. “All the locations we're looking at will either be drive-thru or, and in some particular sites, will have walkup windows, or even food trucks.”
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