Q And A With Charles Watson Of Tropical Smoothie
1. How was your franchise/opportunity originally conceived and started? The Tropical Smoothie Cafe (TSC) brand was started in 1993 as two entrepreneurs in Destin, FL ran across a beach side shack selling amazing all natural, real fruit smoothies. The two entrepreneurs bought the rights to the brand and opened 4 Tropical Smoothie’s in the panhandle area of Florida from 1993-1997. In 1997 they formed a franchise entity and began franchising their brand. In 1999 they changed the name to Tropical Smoothie Cafe and added the food component of our business, in order to drive higher gross sales and service all day-parts – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times. By 2012 the brand had 250 locations and was purchased by a Private Equity firm in Atlanta, Buckhead Investment Partners (BIP) to add growth capital and managerial expertise. Tropical Smoothie Cafe is now headquartered in Atlanta, GA and has over 830 locations in 44 States and is currently opening over 100 locations a year.
2. What was your original vision for your company? How has that changed over time? The vision for the company has always been to serve amazing food and smoothies with a bit of tropical fun. The huge demand for healthier food choices drives business to our doors and our unique combination of irresistible and bold flavors, a cool beachy vibe, and fun, friendly service keeps our guests coming back time and time again.
3. What do you believe is the single most important factor when choosing a franchise? Franchisor – Franchisee “Fit.” A franchise is a business with a “playbook.” Our most successful franchisees are those that are passionate about our brand, serving customers, and following the “playbook.” A franchisee MUST have passion for the brand they choose to partner with – the old adage “if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life” could not be more true when it comes to a prospect choosing the brand that is right for them. Our franchise development process is designed to ensure that our franchise prospects fully investigate our brand to make sure that the “fit” is there!
4. Why should someone choose your franchise over other similar franchises? Tropical Smoothie Cafe is ultimately two businesses in one – 40% of our sales are in food, 60% are in smoothies. With TSC you have the ability to service all day-parts, which drives higher gross sales. When you combine this with the lower development costs of our simple operating model you have a winning business model.
5. What makes your industry attractive? Quick casual restaurant industry is the fastest growing segment in the restaurant industry and accounts for over $1B in sales annually. The industry continues to grow as quick casual provides high quality food and beverage in the service environment that consumers are looking for.
6. What types of qualities do you look for in potential franchisees? Passion for our brand, attention to detail, work ethic, hospitality/service orientation and ability to follow a system are the key drivers we look for in our franchisees.
7. What do your franchise fees and royalties cover? Our fees cover ongoing maintenance of the brand, system support at our corporate franchisee support center, and processing of your agreement including site selection and initial plans for your Cafe. We also have a 4 week training program included in your franchise fee.
8. How do territories work for your franchisees? We rely on a sophisticated real estate model that calculates cannibalization between our Cafe’s – if a new proposed location would cannibalize an existing franchisee too much we do not move forward with the new location.
9. Why has your franchise model been successful? Our product is excellent and we deliver it with unparalleled hospitality. The strength of our franchisees in delivering the product and service is excellent. TSC corporate’s job is to support franchisees in their efforts to be successful at the unit level.
10. Where do you see your franchise in 5 years and 10 years? We expect to have 1500 Cafe’s open and operating by 2025.
11. What is your favorite advice for new franchisees to help them succeed? Have a customer service focus and follow our systems.
12. What would you tell potential franchisees that may be nervous about the financial burdens of starting a franchise? Buying a franchise is a huge decision and you are putting your destiny in your hands (with the support of the brand and corporate staff) so there will always be some jitters. If you are passionate about controlling your own destiny and want to develop both equity and income, as well as drive your wealth – business ownership is the best way to accomplish that goal. A franchisee has to be committed to this idea at the outset and be passionate about it in order to get through any challenges that may occur.
13. Can you explain your financial assistance (if applicable)? Preferred 3rd party lenders are available.
14. On average, how long does it take to start a new franchise from the franchisees point of view? From an initial conversation with a franchise development professional to opening your Cafe doors we typically see anywhere from 6-12 month.
15. What was your background and experience before founding this franchise? I have been in franchising my whole career in the hotel and restaurant space. I began with TSC in 2010. My father was a restauranteur and I am passionate about hospitality! https://www.tropicalsmoothiefranchise.com/about-us/