In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
When founders J. Kim Tucci, Joseph A. Fresta, and John P. Ferrara first opened The Pasta House Co. in 1974, they wanted to elevate pasta to an art form. “Some artists sculpt, some paint, and some sketch,” they write on the restaurant’s website. “But, at The Pasta House Co., we create authentic Italian culinary delights.” A few of the locations even have giant, exhibition kitchens so you can watch as pizzas, pastas, and entrees come to life.
Naturally, The Pasta House Co.’s menu revolves around the Italian staple from which it gets its name. There are more than 25 varieties of pasta to choose from, including linguine with chicken livers and the signature lasagna, plus weekday specials such as stuffed manicotti. Meanwhile, the mangia bene menu—which translates to “eat well” in Italian—showcases the more wholesome side of Italian eating, with dishes low in fat and calories that won’t peer pressure you to break curfew.
For more than 30 years, Quiznos has toasted its submarine sandwiches to bring out the hidden flavors found in butcher-quality meats, cheese, and artisan breads. Its classic and signature subs take on a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles ranging from the prime rib mushroom and swiss to the classic italian donning black olives, mozzarella, red-wine vinaigrette, and plentiful sliced meats. Those closely monitoring their waistlines can take unabashed bites of sandwiches that have fewer than 500 calories, such as the pork-cuban, Baja-chicken, and veggie-caprese subs. Quiznos' Toasty Bullets and Torpedoes offer slimmer versions of sub fare and flaunt supreme aerodynamics when shot out of T-shirt cannons and into mouths. A selection of Flatbread Sammies, soups, and salads round out Quiznos' varied menu.
Bathed in smoky red and blue lighting like the jazz clubs of yore, Cupids Steakhouse literally glows with a purple, royal elegance. The grand piano, surrounded by a low wall of blue-lit glass blocks, waits stoically for the touch of a performer, while the sharply dressed wait staff hustle around it. They cater fine steaks and seafood from kitchen to table, followed by the wafting aromas of filet mignon, New Zealand lamb chops, and buttery king crab legs.
Founded in 1954 by James McLamore and David Edgerton, Burger King rapidly expanded from humble beginnings as a lone burger joint to more than 12,400 locations across 79 countries today, making it the second-largest fast-food-hamburger chain in the world. Its signature burger—the Whopper sandwich—consists of flame-broiled, quarter-pound beef patties crowned with a miniature fedora and a fully customizable array of toppings such as tomatoes, onions, and dill pickles. Focused on continual improvement, the chain recently reinvented the fries that accompany each value meal, outfitting the spud slices with a thicker cut of potato for a fluffier texture on the inside and crispier golden-brown exterior. A spread of decadent desserts including dutch apple pie and Hershey pie keeps sweet teeth from elongating into fangs, and made-to-order breakfast sandwiches clasp eggs, american cheese, and bacon, sausage, or ham between two halves of a flaky croissant to round out the speedy menu.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. As the shop’s reputation grew, so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&Ms, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies, and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real show-stoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.