Growth | September 2013 | By Mary Avant

Sweet 16

The history, evolution, and celebrations of 16 brands with major anniversaries this year.

Taco Cabana is celebrating 35 years of success in the fast casual Mexican arena.
Taco Cabana celebrates year No. 35. Taco Cabana
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5 Years

Chicken Salad Chick

Small But Strong

One stay-at-home mom’s quest to find a nearly perfect chicken salad recipe led founder Stacy Brown to develop the young-but-growing Chicken Salad Chick, a concept with not just one, but 15 separate chicken salad recipes for guests to choose from.

Kicking off the year with giveaways that included free lunches, pounds of chicken salad, and party platters, the five-year-old concept is keeping the party going by introducing the brand to new Southern markets; to date, more than 30 units are slated to open in the Carolinas and Georgia. Chicken Salad Chick also added a vice president of operations and corporate trainer to its ranks to support the growth that’s sure to come over the brand’s next five years.

20 Years

Chipotle

Leading the way

Just 20 years in, Chipotle has carved out a niche in the Mexican segment and—some would argue—singlehandedly paved the way for the growth of the fast-casual industry. The sustainability-minded burrito concept has grown into a 1,400-plus-unit chain with an average unit volume of more than $2.1 million, and has encouraged a slew of fast-casual players to dub themselves “the Chipotle of ...” in hopes of achieving the brand’s power and positioning.

Ringing in the milestone with an “Adventurrito” in July, Chipotle took fans on a 20-day online scavenger hunt, all in the name of 20 lucky fans winning free burritos for life.

25 Years

Auntie Anne’s

From Humble Beginnings

For a brand that’s been operating for a quarter of a century, pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s has seen a lot of firsts in its 25th year, from setting up shop in amusement parks to debuting Mini Pretzel Dogs and dabbling in healthier fare with its Honey Whole Grain Pretzel. The concept also broke ground in its 25th country: Vietnam.

Auntie Anne’s has come a long way from its humble roots as a Pennsylvania farmer’s market stand. Hitting the 1,000-store milestone in 2009 and working its way into 46 states and 25 countries has allowed the concept to roll nearly 1.7 billion pretzels since its launch in 1988.

25 Years

Erbert & Gerbert’s

Out of This World

For a brand based on the tales of Erbert and Gerbert Herbert—fictional characters who fought their way through time and space on a number of adventures—it’s no surprise that creativity is at the core of everything Erbert & Gerbert’s does. Each of the sandwiches on the menu is named after a character from the fairytale world—like veggie sandwich Jacob Bluefinger, named after the Colonial-era hero who saved the Declaration of Independence from a life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness–hating nemesis—and consists of unique flavor combinations that director of marketing Chuck Schwalbe says can’t be found at any other chain.

“We deliver flavor from the back of the house to the front of the house to our deliveries, our catering, and now drive thrus that we’ve added in the last year or so,” he says.

The Wisconsin-based brand is throwing a yearlong party for its silver anniversary, with everything from a Founders Day Deal in January that reverted back to 1988 prices to the giveaway of a silver Buddy 1701 scooter.

It also held a five-week fundraiser starting in July that collected funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and other charities, and introduced a line of proprietary chips in the same month.

Erbert & Gerbert’s will end the year with a scratch-off giveaway campaign, awarding prizes like a 2013 Kia Soul, bikes, iPad Minis, food, apparel, and more to loyal customers.

25 Years

Cold Stone Creamery

The Ice Cream Chameleon

Cold Stone has been rolling with the changes over the years, capitalizing on customers’ demand for frozen yogurt with its own line in 2008, along with a new concept, Cold Stone Yogurt Bar, that launched three years later.

As early as 2003, the brand broke the $100 million sales threshold and, in the same year, had the honor of pioneering the still-popular Cake Batter ice cream flavor. The brand joins fellow 25-year-old Auntie Anne’s in taking its 25th country—Nigeria—by storm in 2013.

25 Years

Fazoli’s

Italian Invasion

It only took two years to create what would become the Italian quick-serve brand’s most popular item, the Sampler Platter, along with its tradition of offering free, unlimited breadsticks to guests. And though Fazoli’s focused heavily on growing its franchise base in its early days—spreading as far west as Colorado and as far south as Florida by 1995—it turned an eye to menu development in the late 2000s. The brand added the Aaaahtalian menu, which featured more than 50 items with zero grams of trans fat, in 2007 and refreshed nearly 80 percent of the menu in 2009.

Just this year, the brand made a real splash by unveiling that it would launch a fast-casual concept that delivers modern Italian fare with a Chipotle-style service model.