The pandemic didn’t change much of Cinnaholic’s physical presence as the company kept its real estate at 900–1,200 square feet. Instead, the biggest changes Cinnaholic implemented were on the online front. As a grab-and-go concept, the brand had an off-premises advantage compared to full-service concepts. But the shift to online ordering was a tactic it had to implement.
“There were obviously concerns at the initial start of things. We all kind of quickly scrambled and pushed everybody to do online ordering—that was a system we did not have in place,” Stennis says. “We just gave [franchisees] the confidence that you don't have to necessarily rely on in-store traffic.”
The brand expanded its third-party delivery services throughout April to move beyond in-store traffic. And while Stennis says some franchisees are concerned about the future, sales have consistently grown.
After a period of waiting to see what COVID-19 would bring, Cinnaholic opened its first pandemic-era location in June. The company was hesitant, but the two hour-long wait time at the restaurant’s grand opening signaled demand for the brand hadn’t stopped. Between June to December of 2020, Cinnaholic opened 14 locations. It ended up closing 2020 with overall system growth of 29 percent, with franchisees controlling all 50 of its locations.
Now Cinnaholic is ramping up plans to expand. Throughout 2021, Cinnaholic projects to open 20 locations and expand to markets such as Austin, Texas, and New York City, along with growing internationally. The brand has five locations in Canada, and plans to continue building stores beyond U.S. borders.
But despite the pandemic- or investor-driven pivots the brand comes across, Cinnaholic’s core remains the same.
“We've been consistent with our menu and haven't made changes,” she says. “Regardless of the environment around us, we're continuing to serve quality products with great customer service.”