Pretzelmaker tries something new: Breakfast

The pretzel chain has created an all-day concept, Fresh Twist, that serves breakfast sandwiches and flatbread pizzas

Breakfast is becoming so popular that even pretzel concepts are trying to get in on the act.

Pretzelmaker, the Atlanta-based chain of mall-based pretzel shops, on Monday announced the formation of a new concept, Fresh Twist by Pretzelmaker, that will use the chain’s pretzels in multiple different dayparts.

That means breakfast sandwiches on pretzel bread buns and flatbread pizzas on pretzel bread crusts.

“It’s definitely a different concept,” says Allison Lauenstein, executive vice president of Pretzelmaker. “We’re building on our equity in the pretzel business. We wanted to branch out beyond that one main product line we have and get into other dayparts and other snacking opportunities.”

Sausage Egg Cheese Sandwich

The 269-unit chain is also looking to branch outside of the mall and believes a second concept with multiple dayparts would better fit customers at airports or on college campuses.

“If we went with our base Pretzelmaker brand, it would limit our offerings and consumers might not understand,” Lauenstein says. And the company felt that a different brand was the best solution to reduce customer confusion.

The company also felt that breakfast would be better served in a different concept targeted at locations outside the mall. “It doesn’t make as much sense to be offering a breakfast line in the mall environment,” Lauenstein says.

Mall traffic has been weak in recent years as more consumers shop online, leading to numerous retail closures and other struggles among restaurants that have long called such shopping centers home.

Pretzelmaker’s system sales declined 4.6% to $74.3 million in 2017, according to Technomic data. The number of U.S. units declined by 5.9% to 207, to go along with 62 international locations.

Pretzelmaker has also spent a lot of time over the years expanding the number of products based on its pretzel dough, such as Pretzel Dogs and Pretzel Bites.

“The Pretzel Bites have become an important product for us, with their on-the-go convenience so you can walk around with a snack in a cup,” Lauenstein says.

But the new concept takes that several steps further. “We took our base [pretzel] mix, and we came up with a bunch of pretzel-inspired food items,” she says.

That includes three different breakfast sandwiches on pretzel buns, chicken sausage in pretzel dough—similar to the chain’s Pretzel Dog, but served with maple syrup—and Cinnamon Toast Pretzel Sticks.

“We wanted to branch out and extend the brand beyond the snacking occasion,” Lauenstein says.

The items will be available all day, which would take advantage of consumer demand for more breakfast items at all times. “The way students and travelers are eating, they’re having breakfast sandwiches at 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.,” Lauenstein says. “Other food companies are serving breakfast all day. So there’s definitely an opportunity.”

The concept can still fit into small spaces, as little as 250 square feet. Lauenstein sees it going into “high-traffic areas” such as airports, train stations, travel centers and colleges. The company is talking with several of them in hopes of opening the first location.

Pretzelmaker is eager to get into those locations. “As we look at the business and the way consumers are changing, we want to be where they are,” Lauenstein says. “If they’re going to the mall, we want to be there. Getting the customer where we can find them is important.”

Fresh Twist also offers Pretzel Flatbread Pizzas and Pepperoni Pretzel Rolls, which are aimed at late afternoon and evenings, along with Pretzelmaker’s traditional soft pretzels and other items.

The company has tested the products, including its breakfast items, at a Pretzelmaker in the Las Vegas airport. The company has also tested the pizzas.

“The products will do very well in an environment where people want something more substantial than just a pretzel snack,” Lauenstein says.

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