Franchise News: Prezels and Pizzas

Short Takes
A Quick Peek into Franchise Life

Pretzels and Pizzas Tie the Knot

Auntie Anne's
, one of the nation's fastest-growing franchise operations, has close to 800 soft pretzel stands in 43 states and 14 countries. Consumers with a hankering for these "secret dough" pretzel concoctions flock to the counters of Auntie Anne's
which traces its roots back to an Amish-country farm stand in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The company is now adding a new twist to it operations in the form of a sit-down service featuring Starbuck's coffee, sandwiches and pizza. The first Auntie Anne's Café opened in Lancaster and is looking to satisfy the hunger needs of customers throughout the day with breakfast, lunch and dinner options as well as providing its popular pretzel offerings. While Auntie Anne's pretzel franchise opens more than 40 locations each year, the company plans to take it one step at time when it comes to expanding the café. "We'll come in low and slow on this," company founder Anne Beiler told the Associated Press. "We'll open the second one and see if the results are consistent. After that we can deploy a growth plan."

Auntie Anne's is also a company with a mission, that of supporting families and children in need. The company allocates 10 percent of its franchise royalties to organizations like the Angela Foundation, the Children's Miracle Network and the Family Resource and Counseling Center. The latter is a family counseling service Anne Beiler and her husband started in their home following the death of their 18-month-old daughter Angela.

A Magic Match

Herbal Magic Systems International, Canada's largest franchisor of personal health and weight-loss counseling centers, was recently acquired by Trivest Partners, a private investment firm based in Miami, Florida. Headquartered in London, Ontario, Herbal Magic Systems has been expanding rapidly along with the waistlines of countless North Americans. "Despite years of medical research and billions of dollars expended, there is still no universal solution for weight loss," said Trivest Partners Managing Director Peter Vandenberg, Jr. "Consequently, behavior modification such as the Herbal Magic program has proven to be an effective way to lose weight and keep off the pounds."

Herbal Magic, which operates under both Herbal Magic (Canada) and Nutri Magic (U.S.), has enjoyed an enchanting growth rate since it first opened in 1996. The company has 228 locations throughout Canada and the U.S. and of these nutrition centers only nine are company-owned locations. The company focuses on both the founding of new franchises (at the rate of 40 a year) and promoting the 10 percent same center growth at its established centers. The Herbal Magic program is based on regularly scheduled private sessions between a client and their designated Herbal Magic counselor. Participants are encouraged to adopt a lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, adequate exercise and herbal supplements. The company's mission is to provide "a natural way to better health and wellness."

Big Plans for Big Eats

While the New Year often brings resolutions of "slimming down," some hearty souls set their sights on expansion. Franchisees of Cici's Pizza, an all-you-can-eat buffet franchise system based in Plano, Texas, are planning to ring in the New Year with a string of new Cici's locations. Five new locations will be opening up in the Nashville area in the first half of the year. An investment group is also working on opening 100 Cici locations in Colorado while another group is developing 250 restaurants in Ohio, Kansas, Missouri and West Virginia.

Cici's $3.99 buffet includes 16 varieties of pizza, pasta, salad and dessert. The company grosses nearly $355 million annually. The average Cici location saw its sales increase by 45 percent over the past three years. Rob Holcomb, the Nashville franchisee who is on the brink of opening the aforementioned five restaurants, estimates each store will gross nearly $1.2 million annually. The company has 450 franchised units in 21 states and they are still counting.

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