Auntie Anne’s Pretzels On COVID-19

Auntie Anne’s Pretzels Founder Gives Her Twist on Easing the Impact COVID-19 is Having on Employees

When we first spoke to Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s pretzels, we were amazed to discover how she was able to overcome unfortunate events and tragic personal loss and go on to create one of the most successful franchises in the world. Now, the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging businesses and workforces globally, and full economic recovery is uncertain. Throomers caught up with Beiler to get her take on the coronavirus effects on her, the company she founded, and future outlook.

Auntie Anne’s became the biggest soft-pretzel franchise on the planet with 1,700 outlets in malls, airports, military bases, travel plazas, universities, and many other places. The coronavirus has dealt a heavy blow to the foodservice industry and accounts for 60% of jobs lost in the U.S. in March. Some eateries have shuttered their doors while others are being creative to weather the storm. Auntie Anne’s has introduced mobile ordering to skip waiting in lines and offers delivery so you can still enjoy their freshly baked twists and treats at home.

Pillars of Strength

Faith and family are pillars of strength for Beiler, who came from a family of eight. Naturally, we asked how things were on that front. “We are well, we come from an Amish background, there are 109 of us right now,” she says. “No one is sick. Everyone is at peace. We are taken care of financially, and we know that that has been a gift from God through the years because of Auntie Anne’s.

“I mean, many of them, you know, obviously don’t have a job right now. But, many of them are entrepreneurs. I have a couple of writers in a family,” she continues. The pandemic is merciless in its impact, not only on personal health but also financially, affecting the self-employed and entrepreneurs, especially hard. Some manage to adapt, while others will have to wait it out and begin again.

Impact on Business

Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchises have locations in 48 states and more than 25 countries. Each store is following coronavirus guidelines issued by national and local health authorities. The corporate office is working closely with franchisees to address any COVID-19 concerns.

Auntie Anne’s has not been spared from the pandemic’s impact. Beiler tells us, “Being a founder of the company and my relationship — I love my people, it just feels very heavy for the company we created.” Auntie Anne’s leadership had to make cuts and hard decisions that many companies have had to make. She continues, “It’s my name on the stores. I just feel very connected in spirit. I’m in my own little world of grief right now, for the company.” She laments over a lot of people having been laid off, including at the corporate office in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Work Family

What can companies do during this crisis? As it turns out, Beiler’s perspective is refreshing. It’s all about the people; they make the company. “People are our greatest asset. I believe that 150%, it means that you’re always looking out for your people,” she says.

She offers some advice on dealing with employees, “I would be in touch with them … they are more valuable to me than I was to them. It should be done with kindness and integrity. We can still be kind and pay them value, rather than send a mass email. This is their bread and butter; this is their dream.”

Like she did during her tenure as the head of Auntie Anne’s, showing compassion and gratitude goes a long way. “Even for some of the financial aid that’s coming through the government, I don’t understand all the details, but not everybody’s gonna get that paid. I understand that. A grateful heart is like taking the vitamin C pill. I mean, it just works [during] hard times,” she says.

Advice for Leaders

We asked Beiler if she had some advice for our business and government leaders. She says, “Speak honestly, with the truth that’s been given to you, and make sure it’s true. And then just stay on the path of being people of integrity. And don’t, please don’t lie to us. We’ve heard so many lies.

“Be wise about what you share because we know they can’t share everything. Then determine [if] you’re going to be a person of integrity. A person of integrity is really not that difficult to be.”

Looking Forward

Finally, we asked Beiler where she thinks we’re headed and what the future holds. “I also believe there’ll be some major changes, and there’ll be opportunities to make some positive changes. And I pray that nobody takes advantage of this,” she says.

“Pay attention to people’s countenance and, and how they talk. If you keep your ears open and listen, it’s really a great opportunity to speak in positive ways to them. We are grieving as a country now. It’s up to us what we can learn from all of this. I do believe that we’re going to get through our grief, a changed nation, and I want to believe it’s going to be for good. That’s awesome!”

We think you’re awesome too, Anne Beiler! She has become an inspirational force for those who experience hardship and has written The Secret Lies Within as a guide for overcoming trauma, perfect reading for times like these. Be sure to read our other article on this remarkable woman and Auntie Anne’s on Throomers.com.