Founded in San Ramon, California, in 2011, Vitality Bowls has grown into the largest superfood cafe brand in the U.S. It got there with the help of some entrepreneurial spirits who bought in and believed in the brand, opening a single store, or two, or three.
“When we got established, we weren’t really looking to partner with large franchisee groups that had multiple other concepts,” says Uriah Blum, VP of Business Development for Vitality Bowls. “We were a small fish in a big pond, and weren’t ready to open 10-to-20 Vitality Bowls in a given market. We really focused on passionate individuals who wanted to bring our concept into their communities and prove our concept could be successful.”
Now that the brand has proven to be successful in a big way—having grown to over 129 units that are either open or in the pipeline—Vitality Bowls is onto its next phase of growth. Blum says the brand is looking for franchisees who still share the passion for its mission, and are also looking to open several units in a given market. Multi-unit agreements have already started to be signed: in April, the brand announced a five-unit deal in the Tucson, Arizona market, with another multi-unit deal that was signed in July for Suwannee, Georgia. Plus, a location recently opened in the Boston area with another already on the way.
“We’re in 20 states now,” Blum says. “We’re focused on continuing to build on that momentum, getting traction in local markets and building up our brand recognition. Things like breaking into the Boston area are huge for us, as was the five-store deal in Arizona. We feel like there are a lot more markets that we’d fit into as well.”
The brand’s momentum is growing as it continues to evolve its core offerings. When Vitality Bowls first opened its doors in 2011, the idea was to create a place where people could get delicious, healthy fare, with a focus on superfood-driven items in an allergy-sensitive environment. Long before açaí was becoming ubiquitous, Vitality Bowls was introducing customers to the superfood via bowls, smoothies, and juices. The brand still serves up all of those things, but recently rolled out a savory menu that’s been a hit with customers and franchisees alike. Other offerings now include salads, grain bowls, toasts and wraps.
The sweet and savory menu is aimed at helping fill out all three of the brand’s dayparts: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “The menu has been so well received,” says Josh Willingham, a franchisee with two stores in the Dallas and Austin areas. “It gives customers another reason to come in for new options, especially in some of the colder climate regions. I’m betting it will raise our AUVs—Not everyone wants a cold-pressed smoothie when it’s 10 degrees outside. They want a warmer, nourishing dish, so this really checks that box and I think it’ll help the brand grow in new markets.”
More recently, the brand started regionally rolling out proprietary, bottled, cold-pressed juices and smoothies in select markets. They’ve been a hit in test stores, as well as a great way to add to ticket sizes for online ordering and delivery tickets. Willingham says this constant innovation is proof of a larger theme—that the Vitality Bowls’ brand is constantly looking for ways to evolve and equip its franchisees with a winning formula.
Support from the franchisor includes a franchise leadership team that regularly meets with each store owner to review questions, provide brand-wide updates, and review P&L statements. Vitality Bowls recently negotiated reduced margins with its main distributor at a time when that’s increasingly difficult to pull off due to rising fuel and gas prices. Blum says franchisees who come from other franchising systems are routinely astounded at the amount of support they receive once they sign on with Vitality Bowls.
“It’s everything from site selection and real estate expertise, to negotiating those rates with vendors and equipment providers,” Blum says. “I just onboarded a new franchisee who had previously franchised with a large brand that I won’t name, and they called me and said, ‘Seriously, I can’t believe how much support you all give. You even help support franchisees with local marketing?’ We take a lot of pride in that.”
For more on franchising with Vitality Bowls, visit the company’s franchising page.