At 900, Smoothie King Vision 'Validated'
When Wan Kim bought Smoothie King in 2012, he had a singular thesis in mind: to be a part of every healthy lifestyle. It took a lot of work to get there, but Kim and the franchisee behind the 900th location see the milestone as validation for a brand transformed.
“When I bought this company about five years ago, there were a lot of changes to be made,” said Wan. “This milestone kind of proves all those necessary changes were right.”
He said the bevy of updates from logos to store designs, the push for drive-thru locations and a major franchising effort helped the company work toward its new mission and vision of inspiring healthier consumers and being a part of every healthy lifestyle. The new changes were good for the topline and bottom lines as well.
“When you look at our average unit volume AUV, it was $332,000. As of 2016, I think we were $490,000, so our AUV went up quite a lot,” said Wan. “When you see the AUV going up 50 percent you can imagine how your bottom line looks.”
He said it came down to living and breathing the healthy lifestyle that has moved well beyond a trend to a true lifestyle, especially for millennials. He said within the QSR segment that Smoothie King operates, there are few people actually focusing on healthy offerings. Moves toward sustainability and fresh foods are great, but free-range chicken slathered in mayonnaise is still not exactly nutrient rich.
That’s what Wan said is attracting people such as Bob Viani, the new franchisee. The 900th location is his first in the brand. Viani has been in the fitness world for nearly 30 years, first as a World Gym 'zee in 1989, then transitioning into the Planet Fitness brand where he grew to 17 locations over 15 years.
He’s out of the gym business for now after taking one of the “offers for buyouts that we couldn’t refuse” and said Smoothie King was an ideal next step after he saw the brand elevated from “mom and pop” to the current look and feel.
“I wanted something that fits my mold, and the Smoothie King mission and vision spoke to me,” said Viani.
It’s a bit of a homecoming for Viani as the new Smoothie King is across from his second Planet Fitness location. It’s an image of what Wan sees as a path forward.
“Not only do we attract more guests that are really in the fitness, but we’re also attracting more franchisees in the sector. That means a lot, it means our vision is coming to life,” said Wan. “I really like seeing those people joining our system because they can approach it easier than other folks.”
Viani brought a few of his friends who still run Planet Fitness locations to the grand opening, and a few more are waiting on the sidelines to see if it’s the right fit. Viani said co-locating with a gym operation is an ideal diversification.
“The best bet is, if you own the property, slip it in the parking lot with a drive-thru,” said Viani. “You could do it with a 900-square-foot building with a double drive-thru and do phenomenal.”
Viani said while this location wouldn’t allow for a drive-thru, but he’ll be experimenting with curbside pickup as customers become more accustomed to the company app for ordering and payment.
Wan is doing more marketing around the app and marketing more with a 1 percent bump to ad funds. He’s also reaching out to more franchisees with a health and fitness focus. He projects the big 1,000-location mark in spring 2018.