Difficult Job a Perfect Fit Says Edible's New CEO
“We’ve got to reverse this trend and get back to positive and then some,” said Mike Rotondo, new CEO of Edible.
Here’s a daunting job description: Become the first CEO other than the legendary founder for a 19-year-old franchise involving fresh-cut fruit arrangements with more than 1,200 units. Reverse declining same-store sales and promote a new brand, launch a new prototype store and enter into an entirely new category of offerings.
For Mike Rotondo, it sounded perfect.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Edible for years. I’m a customer of them,” he says, using the new, shorter name for Edible Arrangements and recalling an encounter between himself and Edible’s founder, Tariq Farid, in February.
Farid had just been inducted into the International Franchise Association Hall of Fame, the IFA's highest honor, and Rotondo, then CEO of Tropical Smoothie, stopped over to congratulate him.
“He said he would use the things we did at Tropical, and say ‘Look at what they did, and how they were able to transform the business,’” Rotondo recalls, which was a heady compliment. Tropical Smoothie grew to more than 650 units and boosted average gross sales to more than $873,000 for 50 percent of operators under Rotondo’s leadership.
“We shared a lot of that passion for the franchising industry and for franchisees, like being that advocate to help franchisees,” Rotondo said about his long relationship with Farid. “I said, this is for me. I’m supposed to go do this. I think all of those things kind of aligned,” including Rotondo’s background in the gifting segment with Honeybaked Hams, and his work in quick-service restaurants boosting gross sales and franchisee profitability at Tropical Smoothie.
For Farid’s part, he said in a statement, “I’ve closely followed Mike’s career over the past decade at Tropical Smoothie, and when the time came to bring in a CEO, I knew he would be perfect for the role.”
Now for the daunting part. “We have to get sales back on track. Comp sales are low at Edible. I’m all about sales and growth,” Rotondo says, adding he will push for “a reversal of where we are. We’ve got to reverse this trend and get back to positive and then some.”
He has spent his first weeks on the job talking with franchisees and learning their concerns. He also immediately signed Edible onto the Franchise Business Review’s third-party survey of franchisee satisfaction.
“My battle is to get the momentum changed between now and the end of the year. I’m talking about what we’re going to do in August. And people say the plans are already done, and I’m like, we need to re-do them then,” he says about conversations with his executive team.
The biggest change for Edible will be a step into the QSR space, as it will begin offering fruit-based treats like Dipped Fruit and Froyo Fruit Blends, evolving from the fresh-cut fruit arrangements customers send for gifts, at $30 to $40 each.
By attracting more people into the retail stores, Rotondo believes, they will try the treats at a low price point and then become aware of the more expensive gift arrangements. A new prototype store is in development to accommodate the new focus, but winning over franchisees to an ambitious and likely costly new model will be a challenge.
How will he approach the task? “The answer would be very carefully, and really not forgetting who we are and how we got here,” Rotondo says.