The former king (queen?) of the food court (actually pretty much any other area of the mall that isn’t the food court?) has, frankly, seen better days.  Malls have been a dying breed for decades now, and for many malls, the pandemic was the final nail in the coffin.   (@ the people with the money necessary to buy a mall, PLEASE keep the food court and turn the rest into housing).  How will Auntie Anne’s survive? By leaving the mall behind.

The first ever drive-thru Auntie Anne’s opened in Wylie, Texas this past Monday. A brand spokesperson stated that this will be the first of many steps towards expanding into new markets outside their previous mall-and-airport focus.

Do I think the Auntie Anne’s drive-thru is the way to go?  Despite the fact that you could, theoretically, thread your wrist through the hole of a pretzel and wear it like a bracelet and nibble it while you drive, probably not.  And it’s not because of any sense of mall-centric nostalgic propaganda. 

Hear me out, here.  The last time I had an Auntie Anne’s pretzel, it was… very greasy. And I’m not saying that has to be a negative thing, there are plenty of food that I love that are just greasy disasters.  Case in point: fair food.  Everyone loves to indulge in fair foods.  But have you ever seen a fried Oreo drive-thru? No, and I think there’s 2 main reasons for this.

First, they just aren’t everyday foods.  Granted, pretty much anything that comes out of a drive-thru window shouldn’t be an everyday food, But even compared to things like Starbucks drinks or the miscellaneous snacks at Sonic (yes, I’m aware that this includes soft pretzel sticks, but that’s rarely the sole reason anyone goes to Sonic), there’s a mental hurdle that soft pretzels just can’t get over on its journey from special occasion treat to something that people will line up at the drive-thru for.  You may not think of going to the mall as a “special” occasion, but the convenience of a stand-alone Auntie Anne’s seems to take a lot of the magic out of it.  

But more importantly than any of that, think about what you spend the most time doing at either the mall or the fair: walking places.  Sure, the old saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” may not apply to these spaces, but whether you consciously think about it or not, you’re doing a lot of walking from Point A to Point B. It’s easy to eat something as greasy and dense as an Auntie Anne’s pretzel when you can spend the rest of the day walking it off.  And now they want me to eat one while sitting in my car? Sorry, I’m not doing that. 

I was originally going to end this with “what mall staple will be next? Cinnabon? Jamba Juice?” before realizing that not only are all of those apparently owned by the same parent company, but Jamba (nee Juice, apparently they dropped the “Juice” at some point) already HAS drive-thrus at about ¼ of its locations, and there are talks of giving Cinnabon the same treatment soon.  But why stop at the drive-thru when there are so many other ways these brands could expand? Gym-based Jambas? (Wait, this has to already exist, right?) Cinnabon coffeeshops?

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