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Planet Smoothie Franchise Review: Q&A with Craig Accardo

Craig Accardo added Planet Smoothie to his existing food franchise and has seen a revenue boost

Craig Accardo poses with Monique Bacon, left, who manages his Planet Smoothie/Auntie Anne's location in Seminole Towne Center, and Reneé Summers, who is the area manager for his four franchised business locations. / Craig Accardo

Craig Accardo poses with Monique Bacon, left, who manages his Planet Smoothie/Auntie Anne’s location in Seminole Towne Center, and Reneé Summers, who is the area manager for his four franchised business locations.

Craig Accardo, the owner of four Auntie Anne’s Pretzel shops in Central Florida, recently added a nontraditional Planet Smoothie franchise to his existing business in Seminole Towne Center in Sanford, Florida. He saw an opportunity to generate extra revenue from his existing square footage in the mall — and the results have been so strong that he hopes to repeat the combination at his other locations.

Craig says simplicity attracted him to Planet Smoothie, just as it did to Auntie Anne’s. Both have strong brands, and both are great products that sell themselves, he says.

“I tasted Planet Smoothie, and I was sold,” he says.

What happened when he combined pretzels and smoothies? Craig says his expectations were exceeded. Planet Smoothie added revenue without cannibalizing customers from his existing business.

This is his story.

What did you do before owning a Planet Smoothie franchise?
I was an insurance adjuster at State Farm for eight years, but I didn’t like the corporate life. It just wasn’t for me. I came across the Auntie Anne’s franchise nearly 13 years ago. Now I own four pretzel shops.

How did you first learn about Planet Smoothie?
Planet Smoothie has a big presence in the local market. So I did my research. There were 26 locations at the time in Orlando, and the brand was strong. That was one of the reasons I tried the Planet Smoothie franchise in the mall. It had a good brand image, and it made sense.

Also, I wanted something simple and with low liability — something where no one is going to ever get undercooked food.

I had been in one mall for about 12 years, and the opportunity arose to move to another location within the mall where there was more space. It was 900 square feet versus 400 or 500. I knew if I wanted to maximize sales, I would have to bring in another brand.

I started looking at Planet Smoothie and Smoothie King, and I found Planet Smoothie to be nutritious and healthy. After that, the idea to merge the two concepts developed quickly.

Craig Accardo

Craig Accardo’s nontraditional Planet Smoothie location at Seminole Towne Center shares space with another popular brand, and has helped generate extra revenue.

Sounds like two great offerings in one location. How did it work out?
It met my projections and a little more. When I first projected sales, I thought 25 percent of my total revenue would be from smoothies. I started at 28 percent, and I think now it’s around 30 percent smoothies. It’s a nice business.

Another reason I partnered with Planet Smoothie is because it didn’t cannibalize sales. It actually helps my sales, because we can cater to just about any customer. Average tickets are up, too. Planet Smoothie customers also typically spend a little more.

It is a slightly different customer base, although both businesses cater mostly to women. The typical Auntie Anne’s customer is female, age 25 to 40. The Planet Smoothie customer — at least in the mall — is female and younger, age 16 to 25.

And there are ways to break into different demographics through catering. I can take a five-gallon jug of smoothies to the gym and other local businesses.

Finally, there is a steady flow of customers because we’re in a mall location. I have more foot traffic than at a strip shopping center. The combined business is nontraditional for Planet Smoothie, but it works.

How would you describe an ideal Planet Smoothie franchisee candidate?
I think you’ve got to multitask and be a people person. You are selling smoothies, but it’s about the people. Auntie Anne’s has a famous saying that we are in the people business, not in the pretzel business. It’s the same for Planet Smoothie.

Franchising is not the type of business where the home office dictates what you do. You are on the front line, but they can give you the guidance to succeed.

It’s also not for someone who wants to do everything on their own. There are some restrictions on what you can do. I can’t make a crawfish gumbo smoothie. On the Auntie Anne’s side, I can’t say I’m going to make a chocolate pretzel tomorrow. Franchising is not for a Lone Ranger type. You have to be able to take guidelines and work them to your favor. If you follow the guidelines, you will be successful.

You also must hire the right people and trust them. When I opened the first two stores, I worked 40 to 50 hours a week. Once the third and fourth stores opened, it got to be too much. I was doing everything from payroll to bookkeeping to managing the stores.

Now, I am doing the hiring, the firing, and payroll. I stop into stores and talk to people, and I can also use camera surveillance in the stores. I have the infrastructure in place that lets my staff manage the stores. That is key if you have multiple locations.

How can you be a successful Planet Smoothie franchisee?
Franchising is taking a model and reproducing it. That’s all franchising is. Taking a product and service and reproducing it over and over. I am kind of doing the same thing with multiple locations.

There also has to be a balance. If you want to get a store and be in there 60 hours a week, it’s a lot of work. It will drain you really quickly. You also don’t want to be an absentee owner and never set foot in it. That won’t work, either.

An owner needs to be hands-on. I have regular meetings with my store managers to go over performance and talk about what I need them to focus on. If you’re absentee, employees won’t be successful and the business will not grow.

What are your days like?
My hours are very different. I do a lot of things from home. If I want to go to one of my stores, I can. I’m not on staff to work — I’m just an extra person.

I do all the hiring and firing, and I like to know what is going on in my stores. But I am not a slave to my stores. That’s why it is key to have infrastructure in place and have the right people.

If you have good hires and stay on top of operations, you can find balance. And if you don’t know something, you need to be smart enough to go to someone who does know. You should be well-rounded.

Why would you recommend Planet Smoothie to someone thinking about starting a business?
It’s a good business model. I can tell you, for instance, the cost is better for a smoothie operation than for selling ice cream. Overall, the cost of products is so much lower. The lower product costs allow more room for profit margin.

Smoothies are also coming along at the right time, because people are gravitating toward healthy lifestyles. Smoothies are seen as healthy and as a treat. In some cases, they’re a meal. It’s different for different people, and it’s very simple. It’s just smoothies, and we do it well.

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