Cinnabon plays wingman for Schlotzsky's in a not-too-sweet deal

J. Wohletz
The pecan mini "center of the roll."
I spotted the Schlotzsky's sandwich shop as I was driving up Colorado Boulevard, but the stand-alone Cinnabon next door was the reason I stopped. Turns out, the cinnamon-roll store is connected to, and has partnered with, Schlotzsky's -- an arrangement that has to be far more favorable on the sammie shop's side. Poor Schlotzsky's isn't anyone's first choice for a sandwich -- it's like the Burger King of fast-food burger joints or the Taco John's of Mexican fast food -- and now it's resorted to using a wingman to woo customers.

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J. Wohletz
The main course: a classic Cinnabon roll.
The Schlotzsky's at 2720 South Colorado Boulevard is stuck on the outskirts of a strip mall, hidden in plain sight; the nearby Cinnabon sign is the most attractive part of this location. The Schlotzsky's chain got its start in Austin, where Don and Dolores Dissman opened the first store in 1971; ten years later, they sold the burgeoning chain of a hundred shops for under $3 million to John and Jeff Wooley and Gary Bradley. The latter soon split, and the Wooleys kept the chain, expanding the menu and taking the company public in 1995. By 2001, there were close to 800 fast-casual stores, but the company was losing sales, and the board gave the Wooley brothers the boot in 2004. Finally, seven years ago, Focus Brands (parent company of Cinnabon, Auntie Anne's, Moe's Southwest Grill and Carvel) bought Schlotzsky's; it's been working on rebranding and reimaging ever since, making menu changes, test-driving some cute text-speaky slogans and, of course, infusing the deli with delicious Cinnabon products.

Cinnabon was born in the Sea Tac Mall in 1985, and became a fast-and-furious pedestrian hit even though it only had the Classic Cinnabon roll at the time -- but Cinnabon soon became half the reason you go to malls. The company was purchased by Focus Brands in 2004 for a cool $30.3 million, and is now doing its best to make a stop at Schlotzsky's seem like a sweet idea.

J. Wohletz
The fresh veggie.
When I stopped, of course I wanted a cinnamon roll first, so I ordered the Cinnabon Classic roll ($3.49) and one of those new "center of the roll" mini Pecanbons ($2.49) while I took my sweet time ordering a couple of sandwiches. I had eaten at Schlotzsky's before -- many times out of necessity, since there was one on my way to work -- but it had been well over a decade, and I remembered little but the piles of black olives on everything. I decided to go with the ham & cheese original style ($10.49) and a fresh veggie ($10.49), despite the threat of more black olives.

Every time I eat a Cinnabon cinnamon roll of any kind, it's like the first time. Somehow Cinnabon manages to cram actual, emotional feelings into each bun that leak out with each smushy, gooey, sugary-butter filled nibble, so it's impossible to feel bad when you're eating one -- even though you know you should be suffering serious guilt and shame over the calorie counts of each of these treats. Although the classic was bigger and slathered with horrible, wonderful cream-cheese goop, the smaller pecan had both cream cheese AND caramel goop, as well as a liberal cram-and-sprinkle of buttery chopped nuts. But I didn't care; I quickly ate half of each.

When I got home, I went to the website to search the nutritional information, and kept getting a "server error: file or directory not found" -- well played, Cinnabon. After several tries, I finally got what I was looking for: the Cinnabon Classic Roll has 880 calories, 320 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat [17 from saturated fat], 20 milligrams of cholesterol and 59 grams of sugar. And the Caramel Pecanbon Center of the Roll contains 840 calories, 360 calories from fat, 42 grams of fat [16 grams saturated fat], 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 grams of sugar.)

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I had to LOL at this analogy, because 1) Taco John's IS my first choice in Mexican fast food (far, far superior to Taco Bell) and 2) I have gone out of my way for Schlotzky's many-a-time.  It's certainly no Masterpiece Deli, but when we're talking a quick, pretty cheap sandwich chain, it certainly beats Subway and the like.  I know I'm not alone here.  Both of these chains are pretty popular in the Dakotas (I'm from North).  And, while Dakotans represent neither foodie culture nor a large percentage of the US population as a whole, young Dakotans (and, dare I say, Wyomingites and beyond) who have moved away (and a whole lot of us have) have a special place in their hearts for these two spots.  And, keep in mind, we had the option of Subway, Taco Bell, etc.  So, maybe I'm biased and nostalgia-driven, but I don't think you got it right this time.  Oh, and the ultimate clincher: I think Cinnabon is disgusting, over frosted, and overpowered by a cream cheese/preservative taste.  Any other Taco John's or Schlotzky's lovers out there?  Back me up! 


@Penguin I'm with you.  Fast food chains are never ideal, but in a pinch, Schlotzky's is a hell of a lot better than Subway, Quizno's, Jimmy John's et. al.

ScubaSteve topcommenter


I have to laugh at people who think the food at Taco John's and Taco Bell is Mexican.


@Penguin lol, I agree. It's a shame there aren't more Schlotzky's around because I would always go there over Subway (can't believe people can walk into one without turning around and walking out), Quizno's, or Jimmy John's. They make a good fast-food sandwich, I genuinely enjoy their Original. I also won't set foot in a Taco Bell restaurant or set wheels in a Taco Bell drive-thru, but I have been known to sneak through a Taco John's drive-thru.


 Sure, I hear you.  I would always prefer to go to a Mexican restaurant (a real one).  I never go to Taco Bell, and am fully aware that when I eat at TJ's that I'm not eating real Mexican food.  Still, in the category of Mexican fast food , I include places like Baja Fresh, Taco John's, Taco Bell -- none of which constitute real Mexican food.  But, if we're looking just at that genre,  I find TJ's to be the least disgusting, personally, and, for whatever reason, I actually like it for what it is. 

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