Robeks is bringing its all-natural, no-sugar-added smoothies to more customers by opening locations in interstate travel plazas. This is a new kind of location for the smoothie franchise, which also recently added drive-thru locations in two Western cities and expanded on a California college campus.
Robeks opened the first of many planned travel plaza locations in late April as part of a major renovation of the Interstate 95 service plaza in Milford, Connecticut, where officials had wanted to expand food options for years. A Connecticut Department of Transportation survey in 2008 found that "visitors prefer more food variety and want a more health-conscious menu" at the plazas.
"People had been coming in for many weeks to see if we were open yet," says Katrina Bickford, Connecticut area developer for Robeks. "We had customers who would walk up and down the travel plaza, and the only reason they were here was because of Robeks. When we opened, people were thrilled."
It's an important strategic location. I-95, especially in the Northeast, is one of the nation's most heavily traveled freeways. "We hope our success here will lead to Robeks stores opening in other service plazas in other parts of the country," Bickford says.
The expansion is part of a broad effort to make Robeks smoothies and juice available to customers in a wider range of settings. Since the company's founding in 1996, most of its 120 locations have been in shopping centers. The travel plaza opening accompanies another launch, this one on a college campus.
This summer, the company opens a second location at California State University Long Beach. It will be in an appropriate place: the university's student recreation and wellness center.
The company also opened its first location with drive-through windows in Fullerton, California, in 2010, and added a second drive-through location in Prescott Valley, Arizona, in 2011.
Company officials are working to expand to another traveler-heavy market: airports.
"As airports redo their concessions, they are learning the same thing that Connecticut officials learned: Travelers are eager for better food options," says Jimmer Bolden, director of franchise development for Robeks.