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Smoothie King Catches the Fitness Wave


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You might not know it at first blush, but Smoothie King CEO Wan Kim is a hilarious and entertaining guy, which I learned over dinner a few years back in the company’s previous home in New Orleans. His presentation at the Franchise Times Finance & Growth Conference was funny and direct as the company rides a wave of enthusiasm for health and fitness across the globe.

Years later, Smoothie King is bigger and more profitable as the company prepares to officially move its headquarters to Dallas. During his 30-minute pitch to assembled bankers, equity firms and multi-unit franchisees, Kim was funny, but also effective as he portrayed the company as part of the rocket-fueled health and fitness industry that’s expanding on so many fronts.

“So many concepts talk about mission and vision,” Kim said. “Let me convince you why we are different.”

Looking at fitness giants Lululemon and Under Armor, $13 billion and $7 billion companies respectively, Kim said he wants people carrying a Smoothie King cup to be associated with a healthy lifestyle just like those now-marquee brands that seemingly came out of nowhere a relatively short time ago.

Since buying the company in 2012, Kim and his team have changed the company’s menu boards to target its four key segments: fitness, slim, wellness and take a break, for people like your faithful scribe who blends smoothies for taste, rather than outright health benefits.

Because of the broad appeal of health and fitness equipment and apparel, even for people who might not actually be that healthy or frequently in a gym, Kim said for some people like his wife, just breathing could be their exercise, which woke the crowd up and drew out plenty of laughs.

“You never argue with your wife,” he said, adding that the aspiration of trying to lose weight, add muscle or to live and eat healthier is a noble cause at any level. As images of the product rotated on screen, Kim stopped at the company’s healthiest offering, bright-green smoothies aimed at the company’s healthiest customers.

“It’s green and doesn't look tasty, but you have to believe me, you have to come to Smoothie King, try the vegan products and email me how impressed you are—it’s really delicious,” he said with a full glass of enthusiasm and charm.

As he shifted to the brand’s marquee numbers, Kim showed that whatever the company’s been up to, the needle is moving as U.S. average unit volumes have increased from $361,000 to $495,000 in the last six years. In addition, 70 percent of its recent store openings have come from existing franchisees, which he suggested was proof its messaging and brand tweaks are charging up the company’s franchisee network.

“Our numbers are strong, we are growing, we have 400 stores in our pipeline now that are waiting to be open, so it’s a really exciting time,” he said. “I want you to watch us, consider us and believe in health and fitness because that’s the future.”

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 

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