Focus is planning to roll out a couple of test locations in March 2023. The company is currently turning renderings into actual building prototypes, operationalizing all aspects of business, and identifying potential franchisees, who will likely be existing operators.
Exact geography hasn’t been determined yet. The East Coast, Northeast (Carvel’s core market), and Florida have all been considered. At the same time, Hartman says franchisees from the Western U.S. are “super energized” about the concept.
“What we know about Carvel is that people in the Northeast and Florida and other parts of the country, they know and love the brand, but our ability to expand outside of core territory for Carvel, that is the opportunity that Cinnabon unlocks because Cinnabon has such broad awareness and there's a draw to Cinnabon, and so that will help Carvel grow in non-core territories,” Hartman says.
“The advantage for Cinnabon is the advantage of ice cream,” she adds. “It's just such a big category. It's going to add frequency. When you put the two things together, that's where you really capture people's imaginations.”
READ MORE: Will Focus Brands Make the Next Big M&A Move?
Cinnabon Swirl was revealed to the entire Focus system in early April during the company’s biennial global conference in Orlando. As part of a food expo one night, operators had an opportunity to visually grasp what Swirl will look like and taste some of the potential menu items.
At that culinary event, Hartman recalls many discussions with franchisees who said they know of the best place to put a Cinnabon Swirl.
“It made me super happy,” Hartman says. “Everyone that we've shown this to, including consumers or people internally, like our board, everybody's reacted in such an enthusiastic, positive way. So I was feeling like we were going to get a lot of positivity from the franchisees, but it was really gratifying to see the positive response that we got.”
Although Cinnabon will soon move to new pieces of real estate, that doesn’t mean mall setups will disappear or be ignored. Similar to the restaurant industry, which saw hundreds of thousands of stores close during the pandemic, the executive believes there will be a reshuffling among malls, with the poorest-performing units shuttering. The additional demand will strengthen the locations left standing.
Hartman has seen this movement in action, with stores based in C-rated malls experiencing successful sales. Outlet centers are seeing favorable results, as well, because of customers gravitating toward the outside shopping environment. Hartman also notes that major developers like Simon Property Group are continuing to invest and fortify these spaces with the right type of retail.