With the ability to “unlock a powerful new pathway for expansion,” Wetzel’s Pretzels lifted the lid off a new storefront concept Wednesday called “Twisted by Wetzel’s.” The chain referred to it as a “street concept” designed to satisfy millennial and Gen Z tastes through “an expansive, innovative menu curated to provide an array of imaginative and elevated options.”

“We’re always looking for growth opportunities for new and existing franchisees to evolve with Wetzel’s,” Jon Fischer, chief development officer, said in a statement. “We’ve shown our ability to adapt to a variety of flexible formats … Adding storefront locations to our portfolio allows us to bring pretzels to the people, wherever they are.” 

Twisted by Wetzel’s will debut spring in Orange County, California. The brand will then target optimal sites at 1,200 square feet with strong street visibility and the potential for outdoor seating, it said. Stores will be built for dine-in and off-premises occasions.

The interiors are bright with open kitchens to showcase Wetzel’s preparation, and ideally suited for power shopping centers in densely populated urban, suburban, and college town settings, Wetzel’s added.

Twisted by Wetzel’s embraces the magic or our core brand and elevates it to a whole new level, providing a bigger, bolder, more imaginative expression of Wetzel’s,” noted Kim Freer, CMO. “Building upon our legacy, we’re reimagining how and where these twisty treats are enjoyed. By bringing an innovative menu and engaging in-store experience to neighborhood locations, we’re making pretzels more fun and more accessible than ever before. We’re proud to debut this new concept in our home state of California, bringing our vision of a Wetz Coast Wonderland to life.”

Some of the dialed-up menu options include:

Twistz: Twisted and braided pretzel dough stuffed with cheese and sprinkled with toppings. Options feature the Pizza Bomb, Wetz Coast Club or Triple Grilled Cheese. 

Dogz: Options include the Baja Boardwalk, complete with jalapeños, green onion, slaw and Cilantro Baja Sauce atop a spiral bun, as well as Wetz Coast Classic, Sriracha Soul and Everything Bacon.

Loaded Bitz: Wetzel’s riff on loaded fries. Sweet and savory pretzel bites drizzled and finished with inventive toppings. One being the S’mores Bitz, a classic Bitz, smothered in chocolate fudge, mini marshmallows, graham cracker crunch and chocolate chips. Other options include Bacon Ranch and Baja Elote.

Topped Pretz: Wetzel’s traditional full-sized pretzels topped with new flavors. Options include the Nashville Heat, covered in Wetz Cheese Sauce and dusted with Nashville spice, and the Maple Bacon, with a maple glaze and crispy bacon bits, among others. 

Pretzel Chimney Cakes: The brand’s pretzel dough, rolled in sugar crystals and filled with soft serve. Available in Cookies & Cream, Chocolate Brownie, and more.

House-Made Drinks: Lemonades, floats, and more, like the sweet and tangy Mangonada, made with real mango frozen lemonade, chili lime seasoning, and sipped through a tamarind straw.

[image source_ID=”134765″][image source_ID=”134764″]Top Round Signage[image source_ID=”134762″][image source_ID=”134761″]Chocolate Shake From Wayback Burgers

Wetzel’s compass of bringing “pretzels to the people, wherever they are,” as Fischer put it, is something the brand amplified in recent years as it spreads outside its heavy mall footprint. Growing sales haven’t hurt, either.

The chain’s same-store sales lifted 11.3 percent last year, building upon a nearly 24 percent jump the year prior versus 2019. That gave Wetzel’s a 35 percent three-year stack headed into 2023. 

It opened 29 new stores last year, including an LAX airport spot, and debuted a partnership with Macy’s, where the brand exists within the retailer’s boxes. Additionally, Wetzel’s development pipeline reached about 60 units as it looked toward new venues and formats, including expanding a fleet of food trucks, as well as units inside WalMarts, Macy’s, nontraditional, malls (where 75 percent of locations today are) and through a partnership with the Phillips 66 family of convenience stores. Franchise unit growth in 2023 was projected to come in at a more than 50 percent increase over 2022. Roughly 40 units total are expected to open.

Also, in August, the concept announced the opening of a co-branded drive-thru location with Thirst, a Utah-based beverage company. 

In November, MTY Food Group, parent of Papa Murphy’s and several other chains, announced it was spending $207 million to acquire Wetzel’s. The California-based snack chain entered the deal with more than 350 locations in 25 states, Canada, and Panama, with 90 percent of those franchised. In the past year, sales hit $245 million.

Wetzel’s was previously owned by private equity firm CenterOak Partners, which bought the chain in 2016.

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Fast Food, Food, Franchising, Growth, Menu Innovations, Operations, Story, Wetzel's Pretzels