Chris Braun, CEO of California–based smoothie, juice, and fruit bowl chain Juice It Up!, approaches the business with a “start-up mentality.”
He, in partnership with chairmen Chris Britt and Ed St. Geme, came together under SJB Brands to purchase Juice It Up! in 2018, which was founded about 25 years ago and now includes 82 franchised units in California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas. Of that 82, 75 are open in California.
Braun notes that when acquiring a legacy business, similar to a start-up, one needs to look at how all aspects of the business are being done. An important part of that analysis, he says, is understanding how the company can create the best experience for customers.
“My No. 1 goal is always considering the guest experience,” Braun says. “Whatever we’re doing—how does it positively affect the guest? And I think a start-up would do the same.”
This priority has informed the decision-making behind improvements to Juice It Up! since the new owners took over, especially when it comes to technology. At the beginning of 2019, the brand introduced a new app that allows customers to pay, earn loyalty points, and redeem rewards from a mobile device. The company also rolled out a new website design and is incorporating a “skip the line” functionality to ensure convenience for customers.
The company brought in Natalie Eaglin as its new director of marketing in October to help facilitate how Juice it Up! digitally engages customers. She previously worked as director of marketing and beverage for California Pizza Kitchen, which has more than 250 locations globally. She’s responsible for leading, developing, and executing marketing strategies and programs, while helping to inspire new approaches to drive brand growth and franchise system profitability.
“Her experience in combination with what we’ve done on the technology side are really allowing us to do some great things,” Braun says. “ … From a technology perspective, what this is really converting to is a better customer experience. Targeted products for targeted people. Looking at it from the standpoint of convenience for the guests so that they have the ability to get products, get in and out of the store quickly with speed of service, order ahead in terms of convenience, delivery options—all sorts of things that are really going to I think help to drive additional consumers as well as having a great experience with the brand in addition to of course a great, flavorful tasty product.”
Juice It Up! is also in the process of implementing new store designs—changes that cater to the consumer. This includes updating how the product is made in order to emphasize speed of service and creating more space for customers in the front of the unit.
“I think it’s a very comfortable and welcoming environment for guests to not only buy a smoothie and have an acai bowl, but to have a quick discussion with their friend or have a business meeting,” Braun says. “We’re really trying to making it friendly for the guests to spend some time in the store. And as important, I think we’ve really simplified the design to make it a clean, aesthetically pleasing design so that people feel very comfortable. It’s not assuming. It’s just very open to family and all ages. It’s just a great look and feel and I think it’s going to improve the guest experience.”
These innovations were paired with planned growth in California, the state where Juice It Up! was founded and where it has the strongest brand awareness, Braun says.
Braun says the company spent much time conducting analytics around its existing customer base and completing a lot of geo-strategic work in positioning new locations.
The company is particularly excited about the growth of its brand in Central and Northern California. That part of the state has five locations, with recent openings in Ripon in July 2019 and Delano in August 2019.
In the next few months, there are plans to open three more units in Southern California, where Juice It Up! appreciates its strongest foothold. Those locations will be Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, and Rialto, all of which were geo-specific targeted areas and identified with meticulous research, Braun says.
“We’re really fortunate because the brand has so much awareness throughout California so when we open up a location, there’s already awareness of the brand, so it’s not starting up a new concept,” Braun says. “It’s basically adding a convenient location to an existing guest base that is already aware of the brand and loves the product. From my perspective, it’s really identifying the right real estate, the right location to open those locations, and making sure the demographic obviously supports that.”
[float_image image=”https://www.qsrmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ChrisBraun.jpg” width=”50″ link=”” caption=”Juice It Up! CEO Chris Braun.” alt=”” align=”left” /]
The push for growth and prioritization of the customers have been aided by the previous experience of Braun and his partners, Britt and St. Geme. Braun says they’ve all worked with brands as both the franchisor and the franchisee. Among the three, this experience includes Burger King, Boot Barn, Signature Theaters, and Mountain Mike’s Pizza, a restaurant with 210 franchised locations in the Western U.S.
Braun says that when choosing franchisees, Juice It Up! seeks people who have health and wellness as a focus and those who are energetic, community-minded, and well-entrenched in everything from the local schools to sports programs to clubs—everything that shows they are a pillar in the community.
“I think the big reason why we’re getting so much interest in the brand is with the new owner group, each of us has different background and experience, but each of us has grown a number of different brands and putting a whole new level of energy and experience into what was a well-known established brand and just breathing new energy into it,” Braun says. “I think we have a lot of excited franchisees to participate in that and certainly some new ones that are looking for that, as well.”
Health and wellness is one of the fastest growing segments, Braun says. He adds that when he, Britt, and St. Geme took over Juice It Up!, they saw many things that were done well, but they also felt they could impart change that would add value to the brand.
So far, their plans appear to be working smoothingly.
“We have a super excited management team, franchise group,” Braun says. “Everything is going in the right direction. I’m super pleased with what’s going on. I think our energy for the brand and the kinds of things we’re working on—every single aspect of the brand we’ve got something new and something great that we’re working on. I think all that is going to translate to a great guest experience.”