A stronger marketing team than before is in place at Nekter Juice Bar, operators say.
Winner: Nekter Juice Bar
When his brother started living what Gagan Batta calls “that so-called Nekter life” and saw results, Batta decided it was worth looking into a juicing concept as a possible business venture.
A veteran Subway franchisee with his brother Aman and father, “we started looking for the next big thing,” says Batta, first having conversations with other brands because Nekter Juice Bar wasn’t franchising except to friends and family. Batta kept coming back to Nekter, however, and began talks with founders Steve and Alexis Schulze, eventually signing a multi-unit agreement in late 2015 to open five stores in Southern California.
“We opened our first Nekter in January 2016 and we have 11 open already, two in Las Vegas and the rest in Southern California,” says Batta, who adds that original agreement quickly changed to 15 stores following several strong openings.
Selling cold-pressed juices, smoothies and acai bowls, Nekter Juice Bar has grown quickly to 100 locations in eight states since its launch in 2010. The Santa Ana, California-based concept stood out in the Healthy Lunch category for its average gross sales of $837,263, low unit closures—just one since 2014—and attractive investment range of $201,500 to $462,600.
With menu prices ranging from $6 to $10 for most items, Nekter positions itself as an upscale yet affordable lifestyle brand appealing to health and wellness-minded consumers.
And Nekter isn’t just playing off of what consumers perceive to be healthy, stresses Batta, something he says some other concepts do while loading up their menus with high-sugar, high-calorie items.
“We’re a raw juice bar, no additives; it’s pure fruit and vegetables only,” says Batta.
“The product was really what made us go for it,” he continues, followed closely by strong store-level operations.
The commitment of the founders, too, stood out to Batta, who says even as the system has grown he still feels like part of a family: “It feels like home visiting the corporate office.”
That’s in contrast to being part of a nearly 45,000-store franchise such as Subway, though Batta acknowledges there’s a whole different set of challenges that come with being an early owner in an emerging brand.
Though Batta’s Redlands area locations are only about 60 miles from where Nekter first got its start, most consumers in the area had never heard of the brand and Batta and his family handled the majority of the grand opening burdens on their own.
“We spent thousands of dollars on each store opening,” he says.
The marketing approach, too, needed to be tailored to those unfamiliar with Nekter and with the idea of juicing.
“The marketing push had to be a lot different,” says Batta. “We really had to directly address and educate the customers. We did a lot of marketing things on our own—a lot of social media marketing on our own.”
The company learned from those early franchise experiences, welcoming feedback and using it to make changes, including the bolstering of its internal team.
“They have a really great marketing team now versus what they had two years ago,” says Batta. Vice president of business operations and vice president of franchise operations positions were also added, along with a director of supply chain.
Still, Batta says, it’s up to each franchise owner to promote the business, such as by sponsoring local sports teams or running ads in area fitness centers, both of which Batta does.
Most of his locations are above the national average in sales.
Being familiar with franchising gave Batta an advantage in evaluating the Nekter concept and he advises that no matter what brand someone is considering, they should make multiple visits to its stores and be confident the product is differentiated from the competition.
“And then the product you would feed to your family should be the one you want to bring to the community,” he says.
— Laura Michaels
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