Tropical Smoothie Cafe, a leading fast casual cafe concept known for its better-for-you food and smoothies with a tropical twist, announced it signed a franchise development agreement with industry veterans Bill Ruby and Greg Powell to expand its presence in South Carolina. The partners will be opening six new cafes throughout the Upstate area, with the first location expected to open in Greenville during the first quarter of 2017.
“Tropical Smoothie has experienced a surge of franchise development this year, propelled by our brand’s overall national expansion efforts and ongoing success,” says Mike Rotondo, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. “We’ve been looking for franchise partners with restaurant and operations experience, as well as a passion and desire to provide unparalleled service and high-quality food. We found that in Bill and Greg, who both have deep roots in the hospitality industry, and we’re thrilled to have them on board to help catapult our growth throughout South Carolina.”
Bill Ruby and Greg Powell each bring more than two decades of experience and a wealth of industry knowledge to Tropical Smoothie Cafe. The partners most recently worked together for Denny’s Corporation, where Ruby led marketing efforts as vice president of field marketing and later became vice president of company operations, and Powell spearheaded branded concepts as vice president of concept innovation and development. Previously, Ruby held corporate marketing and operations positions for large brands including Chili’s Grill and Bar, Little Caesar’s, A&W Restaurants and Yum! Brands, while Powell had a hand in building and growing well-known emerging and legacy brands including Burger King, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Arby’s.
“Greg and I established a strong professional rapport during our time at Denny’s and knew we wanted to venture out into franchising together,” Ruby says. “With our sights set on a successful fast casual concept, we identified Tropical Smoothie Cafe as a brand that’s continued to evolve over the years while consistently providing customers with new and innovative healthy food and smoothie options, and knew this was something we wanted to be a part of. There’s tremendous growth potential in the Upstate market, and we’re confident that Tropical Smoothie will resonate with residents in the communities we’ll serve.”
This new agreement in South Carolina is fueled by Tropical Smoothie Cafe's accelerated franchise development plans. On the heels of one of the strongest years in the company’s 19-year history, the award-winning brand successfully propelled its expansion throughout 2016 and grew its presence in key markets nationwide, including Charleston, South Carolina; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Dallas, Texas; and Southern California.
This year, the food and smoothie franchise plans to exceed 550 restaurants nationwide. The brand currently has franchise opportunities across the U.S. in markets such as Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta and Columbus, among others. By 2018, Tropical Smoothie Cafe plans to have 800 units open across the U.S.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe is looking to add qualified franchisees to its growing brand. Candidates should have business experience; $125,000 in liquid assets and a minimum net worth of $350,000; and an initial investment of between $198,050 and $478,550. The healthier fast food franchise currently boasts an average unit volume (AUV) of more than $634,000—the highest in the company's 19-year history—with the top 50 percent reporting an AUV of more than $806,000.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s aggressive franchise growth is backed by the entrepreneurs at the BIP Franchise Accelerator, a division of venture capital firm BIP Capital, which invested in the brand in 2010. BIP Capital has invested more than $250 million in emerging, high-growth brands across the franchising, software, and technology and consumer products industries. BIP Capital created the BIP Franchise Accelerator to leverage its leadership team's deep franchise experience to help emerging brands accelerate their growth. In addition to Tropical Smoothie Cafe, the BIP Franchise Accelerator’s portfolio includes Tin Drum Asian Kitchen, which has grown to 11 locations in Georgia.
“When we invested in Tropical Smoothie Cafe four years ago, the company had 200 franchised locations and was growing at a slow pace of only 20 per year,” says Tom Wells, vice president of BIP Franchise Accelerator. “Today, Tropical Smoothie Cafe is opening an average of one cafe a week and last year signed nearly 200 franchise agreements. Our partnership has brought not only the needed capital to grow the brand, but also the proven strategies for accelerating a franchise system’s growth.”