Smoothie King promotes a healthy and active lifestyle through purpose-driven smoothies
while also achieving global brand recognition through franchising.
By Stephanie Crets
Smoothies are delicious, but they can have a greater purpose than simply being a tasty treat. They can aid in your fitness or weight-loss plan and provide important nutrients and vitamins. That’s the mission behind Smoothie King’s smoothies: to promote a healthy and active lifestyle without sacrificing taste.
“We sell products that fit inside a category,” Chief Development Officer Kevin King says. “Our smoothies are different than other smoothie concepts. Each smoothie has a specific purpose in mind. Whether it is a post-workout smoothie, a re-energizing smoothie, meal replacement or a treat in your day, we have a variety of different smoothies for different needs, which is perfect for fulfilling our overall mission.”
The first Smoothie King – originally known as Smoothie Bar – was founded in 1973 in New Orleans by Steve Kuhnau. He was looking for a way to solve his chronic food allergies by creating smoothies full of vitamins, nutrients, minerals and high-quality fruit. Since then, the company has grown to more than 800 locations across three continents in key countries including the United States, Korea, Singapore and the Cayman Islands.
In 2012, Smoothie King was acquired by its largest franchisee, Wan Kim. Kim discovered Smoothie King while studying at the University of California at Irvine in 2001. He was immediately hooked and impressed by the quality of the smoothies and the company’s dedication to health and wellness. When he moved back to Seoul in 2003, Kim opened the first Smoothie King location outside of the United States. After building more than 130 locations in Korea and introducing the smoothie concept to the country, he purchased the business from Kuhnau with the goal of bringing the brand's ‘Smoothies With a Purpose’ to more communities across the globe.
“Wan focused the messaging around ‘Smoothies with a Purpose’ and promoting a healthy and active lifestyle,” King explains. “We've now updated the store design and have new teams in place in operations, development, training, IT and HR. Every single aspect of the business has seen upgrades, and those leadership efforts are an important catalyst in improving everything and growing the company, improving our sales.”
Smoothie King’s goal is to have 1,000 stores open by the end of 2017. The smoothie space is highly competitive with a couple of well-known brands already well established, but Smoothie King strives to become the leading smoothie company in the United States and eventually throughout the world. The company has locations in 31 states, so it will focus its efforts on growth in markets it is already in, especially the Southeast and Southwest, where it does the most business.
“We’re aggressively working and growing the brand,” King notes. “In the long-term, I know we can be a national and international brand. We started in New Orleans and will continue to grow from that base, concentrically, as we continue our expansion.”
As Smoothie King’s menu grew over the years, so did its following, which allowed it to have such significant franchise growth. The company has been named the No. 1 franchise in its category by Entrepreneur Magazine more than 20 times since it opened its first franchise location in 1989.
“We have a simple business model focused on making fresh-made smoothies for each guest right as they order,” King says. “We offer great products for guests in a neat environment, our investment is low and we’ve seen a lot of success lately.”
From the moment new franchisees sign their franchise agreement, they become of a part of the Smoothie King family. “Our culture is hardworking and helpful,” King explains. “We’re built around helping our franchisees, and most of the corporate team interacts with them on a daily basis. We have a great relationship with them and I see that continuing, and even increasing, as we move forward.”
From real estate and construction support to training and marketing support, the company helps its new franchisees every step of the way and continues to help for the life of the business. “Our processes, team members and resources are all aligned to deliver the education, motivation and support to successfully launch a new Smoothie King location,” King adds. “We have a great support network with people there, ready to work on a day-to-day basis and help them as they build their stores.”
When looking for the right location, Smoothie King encourages new franchises to consider some of its growing market, along with the following criteria:
* Drive-thru sites;
* Excellent visibility and access;
* 800 to 1,600 square feet;
* Three to six parking spaces; and
* 30,000 people within a seven-minute drive time or accessible trade area.
Once the appropriate territory and site are chosen and a franchisee is ready to begin its business, Smoothie King has a comprehensive training program to ensure franchisees are fully prepared to make their business a success. The first phase is orientation, an introductory session, at the Smoothie King headquarters. Franchisees will learn the system, culture and pre-opening procedures, with topics that include budgets, business planning, financing, site selection, construction and ordering equipment.
The next phase is an 11-day management-training program that offers a comprehensive, hands-on course to ensure franchisees are knowledgeable about every product and Smoothie King’s operational systems. Finally, when it’s time to open the store, Smoothie King will send one of its “store openers” to the new location for up to five days to train the new team. They will learn general store procedures and systems, ordering, budgeting and proper cleaning, as well as opening and closing procedures.
“A number of our franchisees are loyal guests who love our brand and want to own one of these,” King says. “We encourage those people as much as possible to become a franchisee because they get the brand and understand it at its core.”
Smoothie King is picking up momentum in the industry, and King says it’s the perfect concept and industry for a prospective franchisee to consider. With the current market trends and renewed focus on a healthier lifestyle, Smoothie King is poised for phenomenal growth. In the past two years, the company has made significant investments in a new team, product quality and store technology – all to improve the guest experience.
These investments tie directly into benefits for each franchisee, as it offers a great ROI on the initial $30,000 franchise investment fee. “It’s a simple business model,” King explains. “We’re not open super late and our stores run on a lean staff, making Smoothie King a great franchising package. Investment is manageable, great ROI and right on trend with consumers today.”
In addition to growth, Smoothie King is committed to making its name known throughout the world. In February 2014, the New Orleans Arena was renamed the Smoothie King Center. Thanks to this partnership with the NBA, the company has had the opportunity for brand recognition on an even greater level through news and sports coverage.
“The next step is to grow into the leading smoothie brand in the world, [and] encourage even more guests to live a healthy and active lifestyle,” King says.