Barry Rabkin was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2009. A year of radiation treatment took its toll. Rabkin turned to diet to aid in recovery, and found juicing not only raised his energy levels, but also improved other health vitals.

The experience was compelling enough to inspire Rabkin to link up with veteran franchising executive Jeff Levine to write a business concept for a healthy, organic, plant-based concept they could scale to the masses. The first Raw Jūce opened 2013 in Boca Raton, Florida, and has grown to nine venues across South Florida.

The fast casual recently launched a national franchising program to expand in select markets nationwide. Today, it boasts average-unit volumes of $1.59 million and serves a variety of organic offerings, like cold-pressed juices, smoothies, acai bowls, nutrient-filled shots, electro fuel sports drinks, oatmeal parfaits, and salads. Raw Jūce also owns its own organic produce company, Fresh Harvest Organics, and is using its segment standing to establish a “farm-to-bottle” supply chain, the company said.

In 2019, Accelerated Franchised Concepts closed on a minority investment into Raw Jūce as part of a majority recapitalization of the plant-based concept. AFC is an affiliate of AP Franchised Concepts, LLC, led by Anthony Polazzi.

The brand is targeting Houston, Dallas, Charlotte, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta out of the gate, with potential franchisees needing a net worth of at least $1.5 million and liquidity of $500,000.

Rabkin and Levine took some time to chat with QSR about Raw Jūce’s inception, why it’s working, and where the market will take the emerging franchise in the future.

Firstly, talk about your story and how it led you into the juice business. Did you try juicing on a tip from doctors? Where did that begin?

Barry: I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2009, and after of year of undergoing different treatments and medication, I felt extremely weak and depleted of energy. I was looking for anything that would help boost my health and get me energized. I was introduced to juicing from a friend and his wife at the time. She was a health coach and was into superfoods, so she was a big influence in making a lifestyle change. Juicing instantly changed my life. I knew it was something special and that I had to share the amazing benefits with everyone, which is when the Raw Jūce concept was born.

How quickly did you notice results? And what was your plan, as far as how many a day, what kind, and so on?

Barry: I instantly felt like a different person. After 30 days of making this transition I was thinking sharper, felt healthier, and my energy was back. Not only did I feel different, but my health also improved tremendously. My plan was juicing as much as possible, and trying as many different superfoods as possible.

What were you doing, career wise, before starting Raw Jūce?

Barry: Before starting Raw Jūce, I was a broker at Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services, where I helped cover hedge funds.

Jeff: Before starting Raw Jūce, I was the former CEO and founder of Salad Creations.

Take us to the concept creation stage. How did it evolve and when did you start to realize this had some serious legs?

Barry: Once the concept was there, I spoke with my neighbor at the time, Jeff Levine, and convinced him to partner with me to open a juice bar. Jeff is a franchising veteran that has seen a lot of success in his career, so I knew he would help develop this concept into a successful brand. In 2013, we opened our first Raw Jūce in Boca Raton, Florida.

Jeff: After just 90 days, we saw a lot of success and had a strong local response and following. We were making three times what we thought we were going to do in sales. After 6 months, we knew we had something special.

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For people hoping to get started, what would you say is the most important part of crafting a business plan and concept?

Jeff: You need to know the business well in order to grow it. One of the biggest contributors to crafting a successful business plan is to be fluent and adaptable. Things change, constantly. it’s important to adapt and think level-headed. For example, when we noticed sales were much higher than we expected, we quickly realized we needed more manpower to help grow the brand and immediately hired more staff.

Talk about bringing Jeff Levine into the picture. How did you two connect, and what was he able to bring to the table to get the brand started?

Barry: Before coming onboard with Raw Jūce, Jeff was the former CEO and founder of Salad Creations. With his extensive background and expertise in the industry, I knew that Jeff would help grow this concept into the brand it is today.

How long did it take to open store No. 2? Did you always see scalability in the concept’s future?

Barry: It took us two years to open our second store, which quickly grew to nine stores by the end of 2019. We didn’t know what the scalability would be like, but we knew we had something special, and we knew there would be a great future for Raw Jūce.

What went into the decision to launch a national franchising program?

Jeff: Our mission is to empower and encourage everyone to live a healthy lifestyle – we want to expand that. By launching a national franchising program, we’re able to get like-minded individuals to help expand our mission across different markets. We’ve seen tremendous success so far and are only expecting to grow. The plant-based movement is one of the highest growing industries today, and our mission is to empower and encourage everyone to live a healthy lifestyle. Our goal of launching our national franchising program is to expand that mission. Coupled with our commitment to partner with franchisees that share the same values as our brand, we’ll be able to expand that across many different markets.

Some people fear losing brand value through franchising, or just worry about handing their concept off to another operator. How will Raw Jūce address that? What kind of franchisees are you hoping to connect with?

Jeff: We’re very aware that people fear losing brand value through franchising. We plan on combating that through an extremely selective franchisee recruitment process. We’ve worked extremely hard to build this brand and grow to the nine locations we have today. With the launch of our national franchising program, we want to make sure we choose to only partner with individuals who share the same lifestyle and mission as we do. We want people who are just as passionate about the process and product as we are.  

How big do you think Raw Jūce can become? Within a couple years, five, looking even further down the road?

Jeff: We see significant growth in Raw Jūce’s future. We’re hoping to open 50 to 75 franchised locations and another 25 corporate stores in the next five years.

What does the labor model look like per store?

Jeff: One of the biggest differentiators about our brand is our labor model. In addition to the 3-4 employees working behind the counter each shift, we have one team member who welcomes guests as soon as they walk in. That greeter introduces, explains and samples the different products on our menu, and takes each guest through the Raw Jūce experience. We’d like this to be kept consistent across all locations, as it’s extremely important that every guest has the best experience possible with our help.

How will Raw Jūce differentiate itself in a very crowded and growing segment?

Barry: We’re authentic. Raw Jūce’s priority is to provide the best possible product and experience to our guests, so we’re not looking to take shortcuts. All of our ingredients are 100 percent organic, non-pasteurized, and created daily in-house. We make sure our juices and food items are the best tasting products without relying on artificial ingredients, thickening agents and sweeteners that many of our competitors use. In addition, we own our own organic produce company and have invested in our own organic farm, which is expected to yield its first crop in April. Essentially, we’ve really established a truly unique “farm-to-table” supply chain. Raw Jūce isn’t just a juice bar, it’s truly an experience and a lifestyle!

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Franchising, Story