Opening an Auntie Anne’s Franchise | Fees & Info

auntie anne's franchise

If you’ve ever been to a mall, you can probably immediately recall that unforgettable sweet, salty, and buttery smell as you approach an Auntie Anne’s stand. Beloved by just about everyone, opening an Auntie Anne’s franchise could be a lucrative business decision.

Starting a business comes with its share of risks, which is why some people opt for franchising instead. By joining a franchise, you’ll be part of an established and well-known brand with a proven business model and record of success. Of course, that doesn’t mean franchising isn’t without its share of risks and downsides as well.

To join the Auntie Anne’s franchise, you’ll have to complete their seven-step process, which includes:

  • Introduction and exploration. You will have discussions with the franchise development team and review the franchise disclosure document (FDD).
  • Application. You will need to complete the application and again review the FDD.
  • Focus day. This is where you will travel to the Support Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, or Atlanta, Georgia, meet the brand team, and learn in detail about brand support.
  • Franchise agreement. After you visit the support center and your application has been approved, the FOCUS development team will send your franchise agreement for review and execution.
  • Site selection and construction. You will secure your location through rental, sublease, or purchase. 
  • Training. You will head to Lancaster or Atlanta for your leadership and operations training.
  • Open your store. Once all other obligations have been met, your store will be cleared to open.

If you’ve never opened a franchise before, it can be hard to know where to start, so keep reading for all of the information you will need to know about opening an Auntie Anne’s franchise. 

Auntie Anne’s Franchise Overview

In 1988, Anne Beiler bought a stand at a Pennsylvania farmers market to sell her pretzels as a way to fund her husband’s dream of opening a free family counseling center. Once his dream was realized, Anne realized she had also stumbled upon a dream she didn’t even know she had: that of an entrepreneur.

Her pretzel business took off—and now has over 1,500 locations—but Anne continues to carry the idea of caring for others as the main purpose of Auntie Anne’s.

With expansion comes new opportunities. The Auntie Anne’s franchise offers a wide range of locations in which you can open a location of your own, including:

  • Urban street retail
  • Colleges and universities 
  • Shopping malls
  • Outlet centers
  • Airports
  • Train stations
  • Travel plazas
  • Entertainment centers (like sports stadiums and concert arenas)
  • Food trucks
  • Pop-up stores
  • Commissaries

The company looks for franchisees with business experience, the necessary funds, community connections, people skills, and philanthropic values.

How Much Does Opening an Auntie Anne’s Franchise Cost?

It’s important to start with the cost of franchising because that’s usually a make-or-break factor. Auntie Anne’s describes their ideal franchisee candidate as someone who has at least $100,000 in liquid capital or a $300,000 net worth. 

There are different initial fees and investment amounts for each type of location Auntie Anne’s offers as franchise options: an Auntie Anne’s shop, food truck, or trailer. All of this pricing comes from the 2020 Franchise Disclosure Agreement, but are always subject to change based on the market and economy. Here’s how the initials costs break down:

Auntie Anne’s Shop Costs

Type of expenditure Amount Payment Method Due Date Payment Recipient
Initial franchise fee
$30,000
Lump sum
At signing of franchise agreement
Auntie Anne’s
Construction and build-out costs
$40,000 to $150,000
As incurred
As arranged
Contractors
Permits
$2,000 to $4,000
As incurred
Before opening
Government agencies
Equipment package
$28,000 to $47,000
Lump sum
Before opening
Vendors
Millwork
$5,000 to $24,000
As incurred
Before opening
Contractors
Furniture
$0 to $2,500
As incurred
Before opening
Vendors 
Menu board, graphics, interior signs
$250 to $12,000
As incurred
Before opening
Vendors
Exterior signs
$1,500 to $8,500
Lump sum
Before opening
Vendors 
Computer system and software training
$4,300 to $13,000
As incurred
Before opening 
Vendors
Smallwares
$1,000 to $4,500
As incurred
Before opening
Vendors 
Architect/ engineer
$2,000 to $12,000
As incurred
Before opening
Architect 
Rent
$2,000 to $10,000
Monthly
As arranged
Lessors
Grand opening marketing
$1,000 to $5,000
As incurred 
Before opening
Vendors
Legal and accounting fees
$5,000 to $10,000
As incurred
Before opening
Lawyers and accountants 
Insurance
$2,000 to $10,000
As incurred
Before opening
Insurance companies
Misc. opening costs/office supplies
$13,000 to $25,000
As incurred
Before opening
vendors
Security deposits
$0 to $15,000
As incurred
As incurred
Utility companies/lessors
Travel and living expenses during training
$1,000 to $7,500
As incurred
Before opening
Airlines, hotels and restaurants
Opening inventory
$3,300 to $4,000
As incurred
Before opening
Vendors 
Additional funds – 3 months
$15,000 to $51,000
As incurred
As incurred
Auntie Anne’s, employees, vendors, etc.
Total initial investment
$156,000 to $445,000

Auntie Anne’s Food Truck Costs

There are a few differences between the food truck franchising option and the regular shop option above, but some things are the same. You will pay the same amount as above for computer system and software training, smallwares, grand opening marketing, legal and accounting, insurance, and travel and living expenses during training.

Listed below are all of the areas in which opening an Auntie Anne’s food truck franchise differs from a traditional shop.

Type of Expenditure Amount Payment Method Due Date Payment Recipient
Initial franchise fee
$10,000 
Lump sum
At signing of franchise agreement
Auntie Anne’s
Truck costs
$90,000 to $115,000
As incurred
Before opening
Vendors
Permits
$500 to $2,500
As incurred
Before opening
Government agencies
Equipment package
$10,000 to $45,000
Lump sum
Before opening
Vendors
Menu board, graphics, interior signs
$250 to $1,500
As incurred
Before opening
Vendors 
Opening inventory
$3,300 to $4,000
As incurred
Before opening
Designated suppliers
Additional funds – 3 months
$15,000 to $25,000
As incurred
As incurred
Auntie Anne’s, employees, vendors, etc.
Total initial investment
$143,000 to $253,000

Auntie Anne’s Trailer Costs

For the Auntie Anne’s trailer concession stand option, costs are the same as a traditional shop for computer system and software training, smallwares, grand opening marketing, legal and accounting, insurance, and travel and living expenses during training and opening inventory.

Additionally, costs for the initial franchise fee, permits, equipment package, menu board, graphics and interior signs, and additional funds for three months are the same as the food truck option. The chart below shows where a trailer differs from the other two.

Type of Expenditure Amount Payment Method Due Date Payment Recipient 
Trailer costs
$45,000 to $93,000
As incurred
Before opening
Vendors
Total initial investment
$98,000 to $231,000

Most of the time, the range in startup cost is due to the materials and labor you choose. Those things will vary based on your location (as will the cost of permits), so you might experience a cost lower than the low range or higher than the high. It really all depends on where you choose to open your Auntie Anne’s franchise. Additionally, the quality of materials you choose could result in lower or higher costs, but all materials must be purchased from an approved supplier.

The size of your location will also change the cost for some things like marketing materials, signage, and office supply needs. 

Auntie Anne’s Franchise Owner Responsibilities

Opening a franchise isn’t terribly different from starting a business, as Auntie Anne’s leaves a lot of decisions and costs in the hands of the franchisee, so it’s important to know what aspects of opening and running the franchise you’ll be responsible for. Auntie Anne’s is clear that they are under no obligation to offer financing options or assistance.

  • Site selection review. Once you select a location for your franchise, Auntie Anne’s will review it to make sure it meets the minimum site criteria. While Auntie Anne’s may assist you in finding a location, they make it clear that they are not obligated to. It is your responsibility as the franchisee to have the location inspected independently, as well.
  • Site agreement. As the franchisee, you are solely responsible for negotiating the lease or purchase of the location and must deliver all necessary documents (signed lease, sublease, or other rental or purchase agreements) to Auntie Anne’s.
  • General contractor. You must hire a licensed and insured general contractor to conduct the build-out of your shop and that contractor must be approved by Auntie Anne’s.
  • Architectural plans. Auntie Anne’s will provide sample layouts and specifications for your franchise location, and it is at your expense as the owner to employ architects, designers, and other professionals that will execute on the chosen layout and design. All such designs and professionals must be presented to Auntie Anne’s for approval or denial. You also cannot submit anything for permits or licenses prior to approval.
  • Goods and suppliers. Auntie Anne’s will let you know who their approved suppliers are for all goods that you are required to have in your location.
  • Manuals and advice. You will be granted access to all of the materials you will need for your franchise to be successful, like methods, techniques, and other operating specifications. If there is a licensing fee for any necessary software, you will be responsible for that cost.
  • Initial training. Auntie Anne’s provides all initial training and materials for policies and procedures for your trainees.
  • Grand opening materials. The franchisee must provide Auntie Anne’s with a proposal for grand opening marketing materials and how you plan to promote your location, all of which Auntie Anne’s can approve or deny.
  • Opening. If you have met all of the pre-opening obligations, Auntie Anne’s will approve the opening of your location. They estimate that between the time you sign your franchise agreement and your shop opening will be three to 12 months. During this time, you will need to complete the training program, obtain a lease and all necessary permits, complete construction, install equipment and supplies, and hire and train employees. 

The obligations of the franchisee don’t stop once the shop is open. If anything, they only increase. You will need to receive Auntie Anne’s approval on things like remodeling, relocating, additions to offerings, etc., as well as attend corporate meetings and events.

How Hands-On Is an Auntie Anne’s Franchise?

Some franchises appeal to entrepreneurs as a way to make passive income—they invest their money to open the location but hire others to handle the day-to-day operations. If you’re hoping for a similar setup, then opening an Auntie Anne’s franchise is likely not the business you should start.

As stated in the franchise disclosure agreement, “You are required to devote your best efforts to the proper and effective operation of the Shop. If you are an individual, you must either serve as a manager or designate a manager.”

You are also required to attend all scheduled Auntie Anne’s corporate events and/or travel to the Lancaster Support Center to continually improve the business relationship and reaffirm your commitment to the company’s goals.

Even if you appoint someone else as the active manager, you will still be obligated to attend all of the corporate meetings and support center events, so you will need to be well versed in what is going on at your franchise. For those looking for a more hands-off agreement, consider these other food franchise opportunities

The Bottom Line

While there are plenty of advantages to starting an Auntie Anne’s franchise—such as brand recognition and loyalty, an established customer base, and a variety of store options—there are also downsides to consider as well. If you’re looking to be less involved in the day-to-day operations of your franchise, or if you prefer a lower-cost option, then you may want to explore other franchises.

As with any franchise opportunity, be sure to read the franchise disclosure document carefully so you fully understand your responsibilities as the franchisee and how the Auntie Anne’s brand will support you as you open and grow your operation. For more options, check out our guide to the most profitable franchises.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post is a freelance writer who has covered business topics including marketing, franchising, cybersecurity, health insurance, and hiring and retaining employees. She has also written about various finance topics such as startup funding, business bank accounts, retirement plans, and health insurance. Jennifer has specialized experience in social media management and knows the ins and outs of marketing a business through most social media platforms.

After briefly studying law at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, she went on to continue her small business writing career using her new legal knowledge to create content helping small businesses understand legal matters such as taxes, hiring and firing practices, harassment, and other company culture matters. You can find her work on Business.com, Business News Daily, and How Stuff Works.

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