Smoothie King is one of NRF’s newest members. The Dallas-based franchise company has more than 1,000 units worldwide and experienced strong growth in 2020 despite the global pandemic. We connected with Rebecca Miller, chief marketing officer for Smoothie King, to discuss how it shifted digital advertising strategies to emphasize new delivery service methods, growing a key business segment during the pandemic, and launched new products designed to help boost consumers' immune systems during the pandemic.
With food retailers facing new restrictions, how did Smoothie King pivot operations to use new delivery service methods?
We rolled out online ordering shortly before the pandemic started. Because of the pandemic, the growth of our digital sales exceeded our expectations. Our smoothies are already a convenient meal on the go, so growing our delivery and order-ahead business worked as a natural extension of our current business and did not require a large pivot when restaurant dining rooms were closed in many areas.
In November, Smoothie King reported store sales increased by 20.2 percent compared with 2019. What type of digital strategies were implemented to assist in sales?
During COVID-19 we’ve been focused on making sure our guests and team members are safe not only by strictly following safety protocols, but also by building digital sales to increase our speed of service and ease of contactless service. Our advertising shifted to emphasize the quick and healthy convenient meal solutions Smoothie King offers that can be ordered ahead for pickup or delivery to grow that segment of our business.
As a health and wellness leader, what new product innovations helped lead to the company's success during COVID-19?
Many people turned to fast food as a safe, convenient dining option during COVID-19, but there are not many healthy options made with good clean ingredients plus the fruits and veggies we all need to stay well.
We worked hard over the last five years to remove all artificial color, flavors and preservatives from our smoothies. This meant working with every protein and vitamin supplier to make sure they followed the strict standards from our no-no list for every ingredient that goes into our smoothies. Many of our smoothies also have zero grams of added sugar. These changes, plus our commitment to use whole fruits, organic veggies and no syrups, really made Smoothie King unique in the quick-service restaurant space.
We also introduced new Immune Builder smoothies: The Immune Builder Veggie Super Food and Mixed Berry smoothies are both rich in antioxidants, blended with more than 800 percent of your daily vitamin C requirements, plus zinc, iron and calcium to support a healthier immune system.
Overall, we feel Smoothie King’s commitment to blending more nutritious smoothies really helped our success during COVID-19.
What type of guidelines and best practices have been developed to support franchisees through this crisis? How did this business model impact corporate decision-making processes?
With every decision we make, we always have our franchise partners’ best interest in mind. When COVID-19 restrictions went into place, we held weekly franchisee webinars covering topics like applying for PPP loans and marketing promotions to encourage online ordering and drive sales. We also deferred royalty payments and waived national advertising and technology fees during the months they were hardest hit by the pandemic, so our Smoothie King franchisees were able to retain 100 percent of their cashflow to operate their businesses.