Salty, sweet. Hot, cold. Opposites not only attract in love, but they also make for a delicious dining experience. What goes better with a hot, salty pretzel than a sweet, cold smoothie?
That was the thinking when Shawn and Crystal Bowling opened the first Auntie Anne’s drive-thru, co-branded with Jamba, in Wylie, Texas. The store, which offers customers a way to get their hands on those hot pretzels everyone loves without having to go to the mall or airport, is the brainchild of Shawn and Crystal years in the making.
“I don’t know if I would call it a bucket-list item,” Shawn says. “But, I’ve always wanted to own a Jamba. It’s been one of my goals, so, when we found the right real estate location we knew we needed to add a co-brand. We started discussing the brands Focus [parent company of Jamba, Auntie Anne’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s, Cinnabon, and Carvel] offered and decided that Auntie Anne’s was the best. Once we saw Auntie Anne’s we know that was it. Smoothies and pretzels. Salty and Sweet.”
The Bowlings, who opened their store in May, say they were deliberate in the planning of their store. Including the drive-thru was no mistake. After seeing how successful other drive-thrus in the area were during the pandemic, they knew it would be a necessary feature of their future unit, especially with the increased demand for limited or contactless transactions.
“When we saw the location,” Shawn says, “and saw the drive-thru, we knew. My wife and I looked at each other and we instantly knew.”
The drive-thru option not only offered customers a convenient and safe way to pick up their food, it also acted as a safety net for the store in case pandemic-related shutdowns occurred again.
“When we were in the planning phase [of the restaurant] restrictions were already starting to be lifted, but we wanted to be sure if things closed down again we would be fine,” Crystal says.
It’s fair to say the Bowlings and their Auntie Anne’s drive-thru are doing more than fine. Aside from a few non-COVID-related setbacks related to the winter storm that swept through most of Texas, the store opened without a hitch May 17, and has been busy ever since.
“The numbers we projected, we’ve been completely crushing those,” Shawn says. “In a franchise world that’s what you want. We looked at the bottom ten stores and the top ten stores and tried to see what they did for numbers. We took those numbers and based our projections on that, adding a little to the top because of our accessibility. It hasn’t even been close. It’s been fantastic.”
So, what makes the combination of pretzels and smoothies work so well? If you ask Shawn, it comes down to the symbiotic relationship between the brands.
“We wanted to go with two snacks, so when we were discussing it, a lot was made of the energy of the two brands,” Shawn says. “Both brands have a very loyal and a very different following. We really liked the synergy between them. You’ve got the healthier option for the folks who love smoothies and the fruit bowls, and then something a little saltier with the pretzels. You know, the salty and sweet.”