The Real Reason Auntie Anne's Became A Fixture In American Malls

Imagine that you're walking through your local mall one Saturday afternoon, perhaps on the lookout for new clothes or maybe just to pass the time. As any hardcore shopper can tell you, walking up and down that sprawling mall concourse to the beat of today's top hits really gets your appetite up. Maybe it's that sweet, buttery smell that hangs in the air, or maybe it's the allure of sipping ice-cold lemonade in between bites of a big, salty pretzel that gets you — no matter what it is, you still find yourself in front of the Auntie Anne's either way. 

A fixture of mall food courts across the country, Auntie Anne's has been serving hungry shoppers for as long as anyone can remember. With everything from buttery pretzel nuggets, pretzel-wrapped hot dogs, cinnamon sugar pretzels, and big plastic cups of lemonade, it's no surprise that this popular pretzel purveyor has 1,259 locations across the United States (via ScrapeHero). Even Shaq got in on the Auntie Anne's action back in 2007 as an owner and operator (via Nation's Restaurant News). But as you sit there, chewing on your pretzel, you might wonder, "If Auntie Anne's is so popular, why do I never see them outside of malls?" 

The answer to this question makes sense and also explains why Auntie Anne's is beginning to slowly pull out of the mall food court.

Auntie Anne's had access to lots of customers.

Truth be told, Auntie Anne's was not initially intended to become a fixture of malls. According to Restaurant Business Online, the whole love affair between Anne's and the food court fell together because of the high amount of foot traffic. After all, what better way to sell pretzels and lemonade than to set up shop in a place full of customers hungry and thirsty after a long day of shopping?

But the seemingly endless flow of power-walking shoppers and teenagers hanging out at the mall is slowly drying up. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, people were shifting away from the malls and food courts for more convenient and comfortable ways of shopping (via Insider). In fact, the once-great glittering citadels of commerce are seemingly on their last legs, with CNBC predicting 25% of malls will shut down in about five years. Auntie Anne's has begun to remove itself from the mall food court altogether.

In 2021, Auntie Anne's opened its first drive-thru location with Jamba in Texas, finally giving pretzel lovers a new kind of access (via PR Newswire). The chain has also started to offer food trucks, according to the brand's website.