Planet Smoothie Franchise Review: Q&A with Jason Mann of Orlando
Planet Smoothie franchise owner has helped brand grow from three stores to 28 in Orlando
Jason Mann always had a burning desire to own his own business. So, when the opportunity to get back home to Orlando, Florida, and become a Planet Smoothie business owner presented itself, he jumped in with both feet.
A franchisee since 1999 and an area representative since 2004, Mann transformed a career in sales into becoming the business owner he always wanted to be. He now owns three franchise locations, he’s helping to develop two more and he supports 28 locations, all in central Florida.
“I had been in sales my entire career, advertising to hotels and motels, and I was in the Pacific Northwest. I am from Florida originally and was a long way from home,” Mann said. “If I was going to establish a business, I wanted to do it in Florida.”
It was easy to choose Planet Smoothie, Mann said. It requires few employees to run a location, and the work atmosphere is fun.
“You don’t need tremendous inventory, and it is a simple concept to operate — especially for someone without restaurant experience,” Mann said. “Also, startup costs were low, and the food prices were in line.”
Here is Mann’s story.
What did you do before owning a Planet Smoothie?
My background is sales, and I was angling to get home. One day, my father was looking for a franchise, and he saw a Planet Smoothie kiosk in the back of a convenience store. As the owner of a convenience store, two things stuck out in my father’s mind. First, it didn’t take a lot of inventory to meet price points. Second, and more importantly, the trash can was full of straw wrappers, a good sign that the smoothies were popular.
Back in 1999, nobody in Orlando really knew what smoothies were. We were breaking into the market with a new brand and a new concept.
When we started, my wife would be behind the counter and I would go out in a banana suit and bring traffic into the store with our mascot. We also marketed to our community and gained relationships with all the schools. Any community involvement we could tie into, we worked hard to cultivate.
What did it take to build a presence?
The challenge of owning your own business is building it up. There is a tremendous amount of effort you need to put into developing your customer base. To build a successful store, you have to make it a part of the community. You need to be the mayor of the village. We still market as hard as we did when we first opened the store, but now we have a deep and wide customer base.
It also helps to know your customers. Planet Smoothie customers skew toward women ages 18 to 44, and toward people who lead active lifestyles. We were the first smoothie company to create a menu that is divided into lifestyle categories, which means there are plenty of options. A customer can get that decadent smoothie or something ultra-healthy, and that helps to widen the customer base.
How have health trends enhanced sales?
Health trends drive research and development, and thus the new products stores come to offer. Planet Smoothie just launched a new product called Lean Green Extreme. There is a big greens push right now so we source kale, Swiss chard and spinach, dropping whole leaves into smoothies. The combination of greens with pineapples and mangos has become one of our best sellers of the year. Greek-style yogurt has also had an impact.
What helps to drive new products is a good flow of communication between the franchisees and the home office. Franchisees know what customers are requesting, and those ideas are tested and researched at the corporate store in Atlanta. You can’t just introduce new products to the system. Taste is important, product supply is important and price is important. There is an entire system we have developed around innovation. We test all products through this collaboration, and that’s why we are probably the most active smoothie concept on the market in terms of launching new products.
What’s your favorite part of owning a Planet Smoothie franchise?
I enjoy working with the young adults. Typically, it’s their first or second job. How they are influenced at this time in their life will carry on throughout their professional lives. Our staffing, the people in our stores, they are our No. 1 resource. They are on the front line serving customers.
And, good staffing is the basis for success at any store. We try to drive home the Planet Smoothie core values of passion, integrity, loyalty, achievement, teamwork and excellence.
What’s a typical day at Planet Smoothie?
In the mornings, I am in communication with my stores’ general managers and breaking down sales numbers from the previous day. I am also usually working on projects with franchisees throughout their territories.
As an area developer, I am a coach and an information broker, moving data back and forth among franchisees as they need support. I am a standards manager, which means I makes sure standards are consistent throughout the territory. This helps continue to make the brand strong and ensure that resale value is strong. I also help identify future locations and help with training.
I assist however I can. Sometimes I’m a glorified maintenance man. I could be counseling a franchisee or general manager, or changing out a light bulb.
What makes for a successful Planet Smoothie franchisee? How would you describe an ideal candidate?
The ideal candidate is a person with a passion for owning their own business and a passion for Planet Smoothie. They have to fall in love with the brand and must be coachable. There are systems that are designed for multi-unit and single-unit operators, and it’s important to stick to what is proven to be successful.
It’s important to stay focused every single day. The hardest thing is to get up and just sell smoothies. But the key is to develop the best staffing you can and provide the best guest experience you can. Once you have captured your customer base and they are showing up every day, the business can largely be on cruise control, and it’s just a matter of continuing to market.
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!