Food trucks continue to be a hot trend in the quick-service industry, so much so that even traditional brands are diving into the food-truck craze head first.

But for Auntie Anne’s, its recent decision to enter the food-truck business was not taken lightly.

Andy Kmeic, associate vice president of Auntie Anne’s real estate, says the brand carefully researched food trucks and explored how the concept would function when tailored specifically to Auntie Anne’s product. The brand has always embraced a small-footprint prototype, he says, which made food trucks the perfect expansion opportunity.

“We’re constantly looking for new ways to diversify the portfolio, and new venues and ways to reach people who may not know the brand or know what Auntie Anne’s is about,” Kmeic says. “Being able to take the brand and offer it as a convenience factor to people outside of the malls, I think, is a recipe for success.”

Auntie Anne’s tested the waters with the launch of its first food truck this summer. Kmeic says the results were exciting and have encouraged the brand to put more trucks on the road.

“We’d like to have one on every street corner,” Kmeic says. “We’ve got four or five more that look like they’re going to be opening up some time in the next three, four months. Beyond that, the sky is the limit.”

Kmeic says food trucks are an ideal marketing tool that will dramatically increase brand recognition.

“It’s a traveling billboard,” he says. “People can track where the food truck is going to be located, or they can follow it and go get a fresh golden brown product.”

Auntie Anne’s also aims to foster its online presence through the food-truck initiative. The hashtag #IFoundThePretzelTruck is marked on the trucks to encourage guests to interact with the brand on social media. The hashtag is also instrumental in helping fans track the trucks’ whereabouts.

“That’s how we plan to grow. It’s really word of mouth,” Kmeic says. “When you have something like that, word travels pretty quickly.”

Kmeic believes food-truck success is linked directly to franchisee enthusiasm and dedication. “Our initial franchise partner has been in our system for over 20 years now and has been looking for ways to grow,” Kmeic says. “He’s got the right personality, he’s got the right touch to do the food truck. He’s been highly successful, and I know he’s really excited about it.”

Kmeic says that, unlike many other quick-service brands, Auntie Anne’s is not requiring food-truck operators to be franchisees of a store. He says anyone with a passion for the brand is invited to pursue a partnership with Auntie Anne’s to operate a regional food truck.

By Marlee Murphy

Consumer Trends, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Auntie Anne's