Year after year, Sprinkles has continuously put innovation at the top of its menu. Founders Candace and Charles Nelson were among the first to jump on the “cupcake craze” during the mid-2000s, opening the first Sprinkles bakery in Beverly Hills at the turn of 2005. 

Since then, the company has sprawled across the U.S. to a total of 24 bakeries and over 50 Cupcake ATMs. Dan Mesches was named president and CEO of Sprinkles in early 2017; he brought with him a carefully cultivated background in both the corporate side of restaurants and working in private equity of emerging brands. 

With over 15 years in the business, the brand isn’t exactly a startup, but it has recently embarked on a path bringing it to the verge of an inflection—a period of expansion spurred by innovation and dedication to the team and the customer. In other words, Sprinkles is moving full speed ahead. 

That doesn’t mean Sprinkles hasn’t experienced some roadblocks along the way. This particular business model isn’t an easy one to scale, but Mesches was ready to meet the challenges head-on. 


“It’s kind of funny, you think of cupcakes and you go, ‘oh, I bet that’s easier than a restaurant.’ As much as we thought that was true, it’s not,” says Mesches in an episode of QSR Uncut on January 5. “We’re making millions of cupcakes every year … the level of precision is incredibly important to us and what we do.” 

Volume, consistency, and delivering a baked-fresh-daily product are all factors that added layer after layer of difficulty to the process. Mix in a global pandemic, and most would throw in the towel, but not Sprinkles. The company successfully leveraged the pandemic in its favor. 

One of the keys to this was the Sprinkles team itself; Mesches made putting together a group of people with real restaurant backgrounds of utmost importance. From here, the pivot to pandemic innovation was relatively easy. 

“We were also able to pivot very easily to make a model work with all of the precautions […] we were in the middle of rollouts of a new, much more vibrant app that made online ordering much easier,” says Mesches. “Really, what we were able to do was encourage people to pre-order.” 

In a business where there is a high level of waste, making pre-ordering easily available and efficient is crucial. By reworking the app and the website, and establishing a Shopify platform to aid in direct-to-consumer sales, Sprinkles was able to grow and remain flexible throughout the pandemic. 

With the rise of takeout food orders, Sprinkles remodeled its stores to make it as easy as possible for customers and delivery drivers alike, which is a feature that remains valuable in post-pandemic life. 

“We’re almost done with the remodel of every bakery that we own. The remodels added kiosk ordering, with which we have a 97 percent adoption rate,” says Mesches. “But we’re still there for you if you don’t want to order at the kiosk. We still have our great hospitality when you walk in the door. But we find with our demographic that they really prefer the kiosk.” 

No part of the Sprinkles floor plan was left underdeveloped; the counters and cupcake cases were redesigned, doors were added, monitors instead of static menus were placed, and cabinets were built so that customers can easily pick up their orders and be on their way. Every function of the bakery has been reworked to be more efficient for both staff and customers. 

The innovation doesn’t stop there. Sprinkles also expanded its product line to include mini chocolates, cookies, popcorn, cupcake mix, and even “Pupcakes” for dogs. The company has also collaborated with partners such as Lexus to provide cupcakes for its well-known Red Bow events. To keep things interesting, Sprinkles has also collaborated with top chefs such as Claudette Zepeda and Brooke Williamson. 

As of December 14, Sprinkles opened its first domestic franchise in Salt Lake City, Utah. Additionally, with LOIs signed in three countries in Asia, the company has a lot to look forward to in 2023. Mesches believes there’s “a lot of room” for Sprinkles, but the company takes great care in choosing franchisees that share the same level of passion that they do. They aren’t going to rush the process. 

Moreover, Sprinkles has had an explosion of growth with its one-of-a-kind Cupcake ATMs. There are 14 ‘traditional’ Cupcake ATMs attached to its brick-and-mortar bakeries, and over 50 that are nestled in airports, on college campuses, and some retail locations. 

“We do see them as great marketing opportunities, but they’re real sales opportunities that make money,” says Mesches. “The airports have been phenomenally successful.” 

Stocked fresh daily, they bring an unexpected element into the traditionally pre-packaged vending environment, and people are loving them.

In all, Sprinkles has been spearheading innovation and expansion in the bakery space with an ever-growing product line and franchise footprint. Through cutting-edge design and technology, brilliant brand collaborations, and strong leadership, Sprinkles is ready to propel itself to the brink of success in 2023. The bakeries boast AUVs of $2.2 million. 

Fast Casual, Growth, Story, Sprinkles Cupcakes