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Planet Smoothie Franchise Review: Q&A with Store Owner Mele Frumer

Posted Jul 28th, 2014

How this Orlando Planet Smoothie franchise owner is enjoying a successful family business

Mele Frumer, center, with her son, Noah, and employee Abigail Griffen.

Mele Frumer, center, with her son, Noah, and employee Abigail Griffen.

Mele Frumer’s Planet Smoothie franchise near downtown Orlando may be the ultimate family business. She has six children, and seven years ago they were all either teenagers or pre-teens. Mele wanted her kids to learn great work habits, and she was also interested in owning her own healthy franchise. Those two interests came together when she discovered Planet Smoothie.

“It was a happenstance discovery,” she says. “I had gone to check on job opportunities for my kids at a restaurant, and was told they would have to be 18, so I ducked into the Planet Smoothie that was next door.”

Planet Smoothie’s simplicity was perfect for teenage employees, the smoothie market was growing fast, the cost to become an owner was reasonable — and it was healthy! That last point was very important to Mele.

“I’ve always tried to eat healthy myself and exercise and set a good example for my children.”

This is her story.

What did you do before owning a Planet Smoothie?
I was a single mom of six kids, and I was cleaning houses for a living. I had pretty much been a housewife up until then. When my father passed away I inherited a little money. Somewhere in there I re-married, and I started looking for something that I could do that wouldn’t require as much hard labor. I also wanted my kids to learn great work habits. My kids were pre-teens and young teenagers at the time, and we were at a Subway one day and I asked how old their employees have to be. I was told you have to be 18 because of the ovens and knives. So we walked into Jason Mann’s Planet Smoothie next door and learned that high schoolers could work there — and that there was a store for sale nearby!

Over the years, five of my six children have worked for me at the store — not to mention their fiancés and girlfriends — and I have absolutely loved it. My 17-year-old son, Noah, has been helping since he was 12, and he can run the show. It has been great for them — it’s given them a taste for a real job a little earlier than most of their friends.

It sounds like you’ve had quite the family business!
I’ve had a great time doing the Planet Smoothie thing. It’s a perfect little business to do with your kids. It’s not too complicated. When I was looking into franchises, I also looked into one that helps people prepare meals for the week — which made sense to me, because I was used to cooking in bulk — until I learned how much I’d have to worry about when handling meats and cheeses — things I don’t have to hassle with at Planet Smoothie.

What else made Planet Smoothie stand out?
It was very healthy. I would never go into something that was unhealthy. It has gotten healthier and healthier. Also, since I didn’t have a business background at all, I thought it was something I could wrap my head around.

Planet Smoothie uses whole fruits and vegetables to provide great nutrition to customers. We also offer dietary supplements to provide even more benefits.

Planet Smoothie uses whole fruits and vegetables to provide great nutrition to customers. We also offer dietary supplements to provide even more benefits.

What makes Planet Smoothie a healthy franchise?

LeanLeaf (a proprietary sweetener made from agave nectar and stevia) and other things that make us healthier. The only knock on most of our smoothie competitors has been that they can be high in sugar. LeanLeaf was a giant leap for Planet Smoothie, because it allows us to provide great-tasting smoothies without adding sugar, which means they’re lower calorie, too.

Do you feel like Planet Smoothie keeps up with health trends?
Yes, they are ahead of things. They listen to customers and franchisees. They recently mailed a tablet to every store that had a program loaded onto it that let customers take a quick survey while we made their smoothies. They would get a prize for filling out the survey, and Planet Smoothie was able to tabulate the data to see what customers like, what they don’t, why they come to Planet Smoothie, where else they go. … They also do a lot of work on social media to spot what customers are interested in.

How do they use the data?
They use the information to make sure that quarterly promotions are anchored in what our customers want to see. They also get input from our Franchisee Advisory Board, which shares what we’ve heard directly from customers. The franchisee council and Planet Smoothie work together to create the promotions, and corporate creates promotional materials. Since Tasti D-Lite LLC purchased the Planet Smoothie brand, we now have a system for our promotions that is very reliable. They send us posters and new uniform T-shirts that feature the promotion, and everything works like clockwork.

What sets Planet Smoothie apart from other smoothie companies?
They use as much whole fruit as possible. A lot of other places use purées and pasteurized juice out of cartons. That’s not what this is. We keep fresh things. There is no fresh banana in a McDonald’s smoothie. People want natural foods. I had somebody come in and ask if we use “banana spray” or not. Banana spray!?! What is that?!

What kind of customers do you get?
We’re in a downtown business area, so we get a lot of business people, especially in the morning and at lunch. There is also a large high school nearby, so after school lets out we get a lot of high school kids. We’re also next to one of the biggest gyms in the city, so we get a lot of people after their workout. Nurses, doctors and patients also come in from major hospitals nearby.

Some of the business people, in particular, are here every day. We have a loyalty reward program that logs people’s visits and provides people a free smoothie on their 11th visit, so we can track how often customers come in.

Who do you think is right for Planet Smoothie ownership?
It’s good to understand customer service and have an idea of what it’s like to serve the public. If you’re not used to dealing with people, it can be hard, because people are passionate about their smoothies and they take it very seriously. You need to get their smoothie right and do it the same way every time, or they may not be happy. The public is very demanding, and you have to be able to deliver. Also, you need to be ready to treat your store like a baby. You can’t just leave it and go somewhere unless you have it built up and have it in the hands of someone who can treat it well.

What are some things that have helped you grow your business?
Getting people signed up for the rewards program the first time they come in is a big deal, and giving new customers special attention is important. I also went outside the store a lot to introduce people to Planet Smoothie. I would make smoothies, put them in a cooler and go up and down the street handing out free smoothie samples and coupons, and putting coupons on windshields. When we first opened, I had everybody take 30-minute shifts as sign spinners in front of the store — and you should never really stop doing that. We also go to a lot of events like 5k races.

There are a lot of Planet Smoothie franchise locations in Orlando. Do you all work together?
We have advertising co-op meetings where we get together about once a quarter. The biggest thing we discuss is how we want to spend our advertising money. Part of the royalties we pay go into the co-op, and as that money pools and builds up, it allows us to do things to raise brand awareness in Central Florida. We also have conversations about business and share thoughts with each other.

What do you like most about owning and operating a Planet Smoothie?
I like being in control of my own business. It has been extremely gratifying to work so hard and start to see good results. I broke even from the beginning and started making a small profit right away, and now I’m starting to really get traction. I had no training at all in this before Planet Smoothie. I’m just a housewife who wanted to do something new, and with the guidance of other franchisees and guidance of corporate, and by working very hard and with my whole family working together, we’ve been able to succeed.

Is your husband involved in the business?
Bennett loves Planet Smoothie. He is super into health and fitness. He just turned 59, and he is as healthy as my teenage boys and can run as fast. He has worked in the store a little, but he has kept his other career.

Would you recommend Planet Smoothie?
Oh, absolutely. If people are willing to work, and if they get themselves trained and run their stores right, they will be successful. The model is easy to duplicate, and it’s fun. I love it because it has been such a great family business. I don’t know what else I could have done and had so much fun with my kids. And they learned so much!

Learn more about the Planet Smoothie franchise opportunity

Planet Smoothie’s leadership team has more than 100 years of combined experience helping franchisees launch businesses. To learn more, check out our research pages, and for a comprehensive look at the franchise opportunity, fill out a form to download our free franchise report and start a conversation. We look forward to talking with you!

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