The Untold Truth Of Wetzel's Pretzels

Phil Wetzel and Bill Phelps grew their fresh-baked pretzel vision from a single bakery storefront in Redondo Beach, California to over 340 Wetzel's Pretzels locations in the United States and across the globe. Wetzel's fans can now find their favorite warm, buttery soft pretzel from sea to salty sea at all their favorite haunts including food trucks, theme parks, stadiums, and shopping malls.

Wetzel's Pretzels has a slogan on their bags, "Moderation has a time and place. This isn't it." In other words, this pretzel makes no excuses for carb or salt content, yet people can't seem to get enough of the chain's decadent menu items which includes pretzel pizza, pretzel hot dogs, pretzel desserts, and much more. These doughy delights are hogging the pop culture spotlight, from Hollywood to Instagram. Grab a bite, or maybe a handful of Wetzel Bitz, as we reveal all the delicious stories (with plenty of twists and turns) about this popular pretzel chain.

The idea for Wetzel's Pretzels started out on a napkin

When you get a good idea, write it down — just ask Bill Phelps and Rick Wetzel. According to Business Upside, the genesis of Wetzel's Pretzels dates back to March of 1994. The two friends worked for Nestle at the time and were taking a business tour. That's when Wetzel decided to share his wife's pretzel business idea with Phelps: market big, soft doughy pretzels at malls. Phelps revealed in an interview with Franchise Times that their future pretzel plan was hashed out on a napkin at a pub that evening. Just eight months later, they opened their first store. 

Launching Wetzel's Pretzels took sacrifice. Wetzel had to sell his prized Harley Davidson and Phelps' kitchen turned into a testing site for pretzel recipes. The pretzel entrepreneurs then had to persuade a shopping mall owner to come to their house to try their pretzels (via Business Upside). The pair's efforts paid off, and they now had their first taste of pretzel success. The next big moment for Phelps and Wetzel came about a year later when Nestle agreed to partner with them. The duo opened several more pretzel units before they decided to franchise in 1996. 

The founders initially resisted the name Wetzel's Pretzels

It would make sense that Wetzel's Pretzels was the perfect name from the start. The clever rhyme that sticks with you seems like a no-brainer, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, "That was like our 10th choice of our name," Bill Phelps told Franchise Times. At first, Phelps and Rick Wetzel rejected this name because it sounded silly. Instead, the pretzel duo preferred California Pretzels — after all, these California dreamers opened their first store in Los Angeles. That plan was thwarted, however, when the name wasn't able to be trademarked. 

Still resisting the name Wetzel's Pretzels, Wetzel and Phelps settled simply on just Wetzel's (via Franchise Times). To their disappointment, the name wasn't catching on at all. In fact, it confused people. Wetzel's could've been anything like a car dealer or a florist. Pretzels had to be in the name for the business to work. Luckily, the pair had the business sense to toss their dislike for the name and go with destiny. The rest, as they say, is Wetzel's Pretzels history.

Wetzel's offers many crazy, twisted pretzel combinations

Maybe it's because they originated in Los Angeles, but Wetzel's Pretzels sure knows how to put on a show. The made-fresh, hand-rolled pretzels draw crowds with their buttery, doughy fresh scents that waft from the windows. Once the smell and bright signage draws in customers, it's showtime. The dough is the rising star of the show that can be seen from the window. Employees, or shall we say, pretzel producers twist the doughy delights with such grace it seems effortless. 

Beyond the standard Wetzel Original Pretzel, several options are available. Flavored pretzels include Sinful Cinnamon and Almond Crunch. Cheese lovers can find many Wetzel's Pretzels choices like the Cheese Meltdown, Grateful Garlic, Pepperoni Twist, Jalapeno Cheese Melt, and Jalaroni.

You can opt for the playfully named Dog Bites which are 100% beef mini hot dogs, wrapped in hot pretzel and topped with bubbling cheese. Then, there are menu items like the Original Wetzel Dog, Cheese Dog, and Jalapeno Cheese Dog. The pretzel company definitely has a sense of humor with sayings like, "The dogs that makes people beg." Customers can also choose dips – cheddar cheese, jalapeno cheese, pizza sauce or caramel sweet glaze — to compliment their pretzel choice. If you prefer to snack on little bite-sized pretzels, go for the Wetzel Bitz, Pizza Bitz, Almond Crunch Bitz, or Cin-A-Bitz. Whether you go big or small, these portable, shareable snacks are ready to satisfy salty or sweet cravings. 

Their boba drinks are Instagram-worthy

Already known for their fresh-squeezed and frozen lemonades, Wetzel's Pretzels saw potential to add trendy boba (the tapioca balls in bubble tea) to the mix. The plan worked when  the company introduced their Cherry Boba Frozen Lemonade just in time for summer of 2019.The appeal of these fruit-infused boba balls was not lost on the masterminds behind Wetzel's Pretzels. "The craving for Boba, tea and fruit-forward drinks are on the rise," said current Wetzel's Pretzel's CEO Jennifer Schuler, in a 2019 interview with QSR. "Our signature Frozen Lemonade is a guest favorite, and Cherry Boba Frozen Lemonade is an Instagram-worthy, delicious twist."  Beyond the "cherry-flavored popping pearls," The beverage is also made with cherry puree for added fruity flavor as well as visual appeal.

The chain's boba ball momentum shows no signs of slowing down. New flavors like the Mango Boba Frozen Lemonade are making waves on social media. Disney Food Blog raved about the volume of boba pearls and the subtle, sweet mango flavor. The post also trumpeted endless postcard-worthy pics of the drink. Layers of pale lemon and mango against sapphire waters at Disney Springs — ah, the power of social media.  

Wetzel's is the celebrity pretzel

Wetzel's Pretzels is no stranger to the spotlight. Hollywood A-listers can't seem to get enough of these tasty twists. Just how did this celebrity fascination with Wetzel's Pretzels start? Location, location, location. Take for example, legendary film producer John Davis, who's worked with Hollywood A-listers like Tom Cruise, Meg Ryan and Denzel Washington. According to Inc., Davis regularly visits the nearby location. After an employee offered him a sample, he was hooked. Davis is such a devotee to Wetzel's Pretzels, he became an investor. 

"The pretzel to the stars" has made guest appearances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "Ellen," "The King of Queens," and many other movies and television shows (via Wetzel's Pretzels). Jimmy Kimmel is such a fan that he did a comedy sketch with "Harry Caray" (Will Ferrell) handing out Wetzel's Pretzels, and in 2020, officially supported #wetzels4pretzident. Billie Eilish's "Therefore I Am" video caused a stir when she grabs a Wetzel Pretzel at the mall (Seventeen speculates that the video's message is to address Hollywood's body shaming). 

Paparazzi regularly catch celebs toting their Wetzel's Pretzel bag (via Wetzel's Pretzels). Vanity Fair ran a piece on Ben Affleck being spotted with Jennifer Lopez's daughter and his kids at Universal CityWalk. What's more, the rest of article centered on — you guessed it — Affleck's affinity for Wetzel's Pretzels. 

You can celebrate National (Wetzel's) Pretzel Day

Pretzels lovers, be sure to mark your calendar for National Pretzel Day. According to National Today, somewhere around 7th Century A.D. monks started creating these twisty treats to resemble praying arms. But it would be several hundred more years before the pretzel officially got its due. Per USA Today, in 2003, the governor of Pennsylvania issued a declaration that April 26 would be National Pretzel Day. What does this mean for pretzel lovers today? Plenty. 

Around the country, pretzel love abounds with trips to beer gardens for tastings and of course, freebies. Wetzel's Pretzels typically does something big to celebrate National Pretzel Day. In years past, Wetzel's offered a free Wetzel's Original Pretzel from 3 pm to close (at most locations). In 2019, Wetzel's Pretzels gave away 85,000 free Wetzel's Pretzels nationwide for the occasion (via QSR). Leave it to Wetzel's Pretzels to put their own twist on the holiday — the company took it upon itself to rename the occasion "National Wetzel Day." We're looking forward to seeing what pretzel freebies are in our future. 

You're bound to run into Wetzel's Pretzels on your vacation

Wetzel's Pretzels are not just in your local mall anymore. The brand's flagship Downtown Disney District location in Anaheim went through a million-dollar remodel, according to Hospitality Technology. The pretzel has moved into East Coast hot spots as well, with not one, but two Disney Springs locations at Walt Disney World in Florida. Wetzel's Pretzels takes center stage at Disney Springs where you can almost touch the stage with live shows. The chain also has prime real estate on the CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood. Of course, you don't have to stick to theme parks. Grab a pretzel before the seventh inning stretch at Dodgers Stadium or other sporting venues. Pretzel lovers can also visit a Wetzel's cart at the scenic Santa Monica Pier.

Whether you take your next vacation by air or car, Wetzel's Pretzels has you covered. That's because you can get your favorite pretzel fix in several airports and gas stations. Wetzel's Pretzel joined forces with Phillips 66, Conoco and 76 branded convenience stores to bring hot pretzels to more road trippers, Nation's Restaurant News reported. Of course, if you're feeling nostalgic, you can still take a trip to the mall for a Wetzel's Pretzel. Maybe a shopping trip to The Mall of America or Macy's might just have to do until your next Wetzel's Pretzels vacation. 

Wetzel's Pretzels' goal of 'world domination' hasn't gone according to plan

Wetzel's Pretzels is a staple across America, but they have loftier plans to take over the world. The company website touted, "No border can hold us! People around the world need pretzels" in reference to the chain's move to Puerto Rico in 1998. The Puerto Rico pretzel expansion continued with a seventh unit added in the town of Plaza Centro, according to QSR. The company even created a pretzel only found on the island, the sugar-coated "Majorca."  

Beyond U.S. territory, Wetzel's Pretzels has a kiosk at the Panama Airport, and the chain also migrated up north to Canada. Back in 2018, a press release announced that the company would be bringing 50 locations to China. While a Wetzel's Pretzels did open in Shanghai that year, that location is now closed, and the full expansion never materialized.  

Responding to hitting the 100 unit mark in 2001, Wetzel's Pretzels boasted it was "one step closer to world domination," but over two decades later, the chain remains far from achieving that goal. Still, we maintain that a Wetzel's Pretzels global expansion might just make the world a better place. After all, pretzels are an international symbol of love (via Heinz History Center).

Wetzel's Pretzels joined forces with food trucks

Ready to tie the knot? Seek out Wetzel's Pretzels for your upcoming prenuptial party. West Coast food trucks are rolling into special events like weddings, festivals, block parties, corporate events, and more. Wetzel's Pretzels food truck locations are specific to California, Arizona, Texas and Nevada. In Utah, the company partnered with Thirst Drinks to roll out a truck. The collaboration came about when Thirst Drinks co-founder Ethan Cisneros found out Wetzel's Pretzels had not made it to Utah and sought to change that. (Winter is hibernation time for the truck, but come spring it is ready to roll.)

Wetzel's Pretzels hopes to expand their fleet of pretzel trucks across the United States. The company website shows interest in expanding food trucks into North Carolina, Florida, New York, Washington, and more locales. The company is hoping to attract franchisers with an ad that says, "own the perfect franchise for people on the move." Food trucks have provided yet another way for Wetzel's Pretzels to find new markets that don't take up much space. Fans can also follow Wetzel's Pretzels food truck on social media to follow where they'll be rolling into next.

The first female CEO of Wetzel's Pretzels is fun and fearless

Ever since Wetzel's Pretzels hired their first female CEO Jennifer Schuler in 2019, it's been a wildly successful ride. This native California dreamer is pushing pretzel boundaries with playful combinations like the Rainbow Crunch, a limited pretzel crusted in Fruity Pebbles, that was last available in 2021. Her creative risks are creating a sensation. A writer for Elite Daily raves about the Rainbow Crunch, "smothered in Wetzel's Pretzels' Sweet Glaze and topped off with a generous handful of Fruity Pebbles. Yes, it'll take you all the way back to the days of 'He Man' and 'CatDog,' and yes, I'll take five for myself." 

The Twisted Kitchen in Pasadena, California, is where crazy recipes like the Rainbow Crunch and Flamin' Hot Cheetos pretzels are born. Schuler's Twisted Kitchen tests out new recipes ideas –like soft pretzels with mango glaze drizzled with chamoy and topped with the spicy seasoning Tajín. "We'll do an innovation day and we'll just bake and test all day," Schuler told Franchise Times. Schuler swapped out professional chefs for food stylists in the Twisted Kitchen, claiming the chef's recipes were "too fussy." The switch was a smart move on her part. Mere months after Schuler took the helm as CEO, Wetzel's Pretzels saw their Instagram following increase from 8,000 to 18,000. Plus, 2021 proved a record-breaking year for with double-digit sales growth, according to QSR. Wetzel's Pretzels new CEO exudes that fun California vibe with big, bold ideas that make people smile.   

Wetzel's Pretzels stole the show at the 2022 Rose Bowl Parade

Wetzel's Pretzels was "Walkin' on Sunshine" at the 2022 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Cruising down the street with bee-bopping music and up-beat dancing, the company's float gave the audience what they've been waiting for: fun! Just one look at the purple "pretzel mobile" with a 1950's beach theme made people smile and dance. In front of the giant boom box stood Wetzel's Pretzels founders Phil Wetzel and Bill Phelps along with current CEO Jennifer Schuler (via Pasadena Weekly). The float also featured front-line crew members, franchise partners, and general managers. Beach balls, surf boards, and road trip signs paid homage to the spirit of California. 

Bright, Southern California colors popped with 100,000 flowers and natural elements on the float (via Pasadena Star-News). Blue statice and yellow split peas made the beach blanket, while blue statice and silverleaf, orange, and blue lentilsdecked out the classic convertible. The float won the Golden State Award for "most outstanding depiction of life in California," according to NBC Los Angeles.

The Rose Parade was a perfect fit for Wetzel's Pretzels since the company is headquartered right there in Pasadena. What's more, the parade theme — "Dream. Believe. Achieve." — resonated with Wetzel's since it was founded by first-time entrepreneurs. "'Dream. Believe. Achieve.' is what we do as an organization. It was founded by entrepreneurs who had a dream," Schuler told Pasadena Weekly.  

The pretzel chain is actively recruiting military veterans

Wetzel's Pretzels wants you to join. The chain is actively looking to recruit military veterans to be a part of the company via Force to Franchise, a program that actively seeks military veterans to become owners of a Wetzel's Pretzels franchise. Veterans meeting program requirements receive perks and discounts for their service. The program offers  10,000 off the basic franchise fee (cost is $35,000 for a single bakery) or a discount of $5,000 on an initial franchise fee (costs range from $15,000 to $20,000) for non-traditional locations, according to Franchise Business Review. 

Force to Franchise is an initiative formed to thank military veterans for their service. In addition, the program provides business opportunities so veterans can further their goals both professionally and personally, according to a Wetzel's Pretzels press release. The purpose is not only to show appreciation for military veterans, but to bridge the gap into civilian life. Wetzel's Pretzels considers the arrangement a win-win since veterans bring admirable traits like leadership, integrity, and a hard work ethic to the company.