Jennifer Schuler is Wetzel’s Pretzels new CEO and also a franchisee of two stores in the Mall of America.
Just a few weeks into a test of delivery for Wetzel’s Pretzels, new CEO Jennifer Schuler counts two surprises, in a good way.
“We all know the average ticket for delivery is higher; ours has been significantly higher,” with the number of items per invoice about 75 percent higher than in the restaurants, she says. It’s unclear in these early days exactly why.
“Are they ordering for parties? Are they ordering for work events?” For 25 years a mall-based concept, Wetzel’s ongoing test at Kitchen United’s first ghost or virtual kitchen, in Pasadena, California, will seek to learn details. A ghost kitchen is an all-online-ordering and delivery model, no-seating restaurant.
The second surprise: traditional locations do most of their business Friday through Sunday, she says. “At Kitchen United it’s a really good weekday business,"which seems promising if franchisees can boost their sales on slow days at the mall.
Formerly president and CMO, Schuler was named CEO in January and has been pumping out a mantra: “bringing pretzels to the people.” There’s a Wetzel’s at historic Disneyland, Universal Studios, and just two years ago the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles.
“We have proof of concept. We want to push that into a more national scale, things like airports, entertainment destinations," she says.
A Wetzel’s Pretzel sells for a low price point, $3 to $4, with Pretzel Bites going for $4 to $6. That’s one reason she wanted to try delivery as a test, to avoid saddling franchisees with high delivery fees if it wasn’t profitable.
“We needed to see if the math would work out. Rather than test it in stores, we can do a protected, incubated test” with Kitchen United.
Unit level economics is personal for Schuler, more so than your average franchise CEO, because a year ago she bought two stores in the Mall of America in Minnesota, where she used to live when working for General Mills. “I’ve gotten a much more intimate view of what it takes to run those successfully, and what our franchisees need from us as a franchisor. That has been really eye-opening to me,”she said.
Last Thanksgiving was her first Black Friday as a franchise owner, and she was on site. “Oh my gosh. It’s unreal what the team pulls together to do, but there’s a tremendous amount” of buzz and energy, too. It was a “bonding experience” with fellow franchisees.