Meet Planet Smoothie Franchise Owner Ryan DeWitt
Young entrepreneur and airline pilot goes all in on small-business ownership with a brand he says is a perfect fit for his suburban Tampa market
As an airline pilot, Ryan DeWitt knows the importance of a well-run operation with proven systems and a devotion to customer service. That’s why, when he began looking at small businesses he could own and operate alongside his flying career, the Planet Smoothie® franchise concept caught his eye. After opening his first Kilmore, Florida, location in December 2016, he added a second site in 2018 and hopes to grow more in coming years.
What’s your background, how did you get into the smoothie business?
My background is a little different in the business side. I’m a pilot, it’s my main job, as I call it. I was looking for a business to get into for a second income, and I wanted something trendy, healthy, and I got the smoothie idea because Planet Smoothie was the biggest employee, the biggest brand presence. And I believe the company culture is determined to be customer service, which I think is what keeps most businesses alive.
What makes your stores successful?
I would say great staff. Customer service is the No. 1 topic that I talk about every single day with them. Energize with your guests, talk with your guests, relate to your guests, making them want to come back for a second smoothie, or a third smoothie.
Is that how you sum up the Planet Smoothie culture?
It’s great energy, customer service, talking with guests, relating to your guests, being able to have a normal conversation. In Kilmore, with a small town you have to have that family vibe, so I tell my staff that. Customers come in the store, I want them to feel like they’re coming to their cousin’s house to get a smoothie, vs. visiting a store. It’s like being welcomed home.
How has owning your own business been in real life vs. how you imagined it?
It has its challenges; I am juggling two careers. I actually managed my first store for the first year so if I wasn’t in an airplane, I was inside these four walls, so it does take your time. But, when it’s yours and you care about it, and want to see it succeed, that doesn’t bother you. I don’t think I’m ever too busy. I like having something to do. So to me, even juggling two jobs it’s not that bad.
You sound like you really enjoy this place.
I do. I really do. I enjoy coming here, seeing the staff, seeing the customers, talking with people, having a good time. Because I always tell my staff, I want them to want to come to work and have fun. I don’t want them to dread coming to the store. If you enjoy coming to work, the customers will see your energy, see your attitude, they will feel like that’s a good place.
Do you have relationships with your customers? Do you have the same people coming in?
It’s especially nice to have, say, that first customer on a first date, and then they come back again and two years later they order the exact same smoothie in the exact same way they did the first day. They know you by name. We interacted with one lady as she sold her house, bought a new house, put her kids in school. We hear about those life updates, and it’s a real connection.
It’s got to be fun to have a healthy business that helps people have a healthier life.
We’ll get people from the gym, get people from surgeries, people who just come in here and say, “Hey, I want to lose weight. What should I order?” “Show me what to do.” You’re almost like a personal nutritionist. It’s nice having people who want to come in with a purpose because honestly, Planet Smoothie’s mission is to make every guest’s day better, so if a customer comes in and wants to do better, and you’re able to help them, it just makes you feel like you’ve done something for that guest.
Why would you recommend this particular business for someone?
The operation is simple; not a lot of moving parts. The waste is very controllable so your costs are controllable. The product itself is a very well known, a good product that customers typically like.
How plugged in are you with the other owners in the area?
We definitely have meetings and keep up with each other, ask questions of each other, help out if we can, offer products, ideas and advice. When I was a new owner they were very helpful. Everybody’s definitely willing to pitch in a hand if they can.
What does your average day look like?
I have a great manager who takes a lot of load off my back, but even so I try to hit both of my stores in a day. I’ll meet with the manager, talk about what’s been going on, talk about what the store’s done, she updates me on what’s been going on. We talk about the future of what we want to do, and if we want to promote at any of the events coming up in town. Then I will go to the second store and repeat that process.
In the days where I was the manager I would come in and make a schedule, basically do the operations duties of a manager. So I’ve seen both sides, and it’s nice to be able to sit back as an owner and just be an owner, but when you are a manager it’s still fun because you’re more involved in your operations.
Has owning a Planet Smoothie franchise met your personal goals?
My expectation of my first store definitely exceeded my goals, and the second store is doing well also. It’s definitely been a great opportunity. You have the jitters when you sign that check for a franchise fee, but it’s definitely rewarding. Looking back I have no second guesses. I’m very happy with that I did it.
Planet Smoothie is a smoothie franchise that sets itself apart by offering great-tasting smoothies that use healthier, natural ingredients. In a side-by-side comparison, our smoothies generally have less sugar and fewer calories — a big competitive advantage as Americans actively seek out healthier options. Planet Smoothie is led by a veteran franchise team and dedicated brand support team as part of the Kahala Brands™ family.