Multi-Unit Franchise Owner Linda Read Explains Why She’s Co-Branding with Planet Smoothie
Pretzel franchise owner is adding Planet Smoothie concept to stores in California
Linda Read has two decades of experience as a successful multi-unit franchise owner for a well-known pretzel business. She owns and manages 10 locations in the Los Angeles area — and she recently began tweaking her business model to introduce a second concept — Planet Smoothie.
The Planet Smoothie franchise model is designed to work as a standalone concept or as a co-brand with other businesses. It has proven to be a popular choice for co-branded locations in malls.
Linda’s first Planet Smoothie locations opened in August, and she is so excited by the results that she is already looking for ways to add Planet Smoothie to her other locations.
This is her story:
How did you first learn about Planet Smoothie?
I learned about it through Auntie Anne’s franchisees. I served on a leadership council with other franchisees who were really positive about their experience co-branding their stores. I had already done all the architectural renderings for a new outlet center location for Auntie Anne’s (at The Outlets at Tejon Ranch), but I wanted to add some type of cold option. It’s an outdoor center, and the weather can be very hot. On the day we opened it was 109 degrees. I called Kurt Ullman, vice president of Global Development for Planet Smoothie, and in a matter of weeks we were able to do it. That’s a testament to Planet Smoothie. When there is an opportunity, they move quickly, make fast decisions and make things happen.
What’s it like working with the team?
It’s been great. You go for training. Of course, everybody has made a smoothie in a blender, but during training you see everything that goes into each recipe, see what it takes to run an outstanding Planet Smoothie store and get an overview of the values. I also went to Atlanta to work in a store. They prepare you really well. It can be intimidating when you first see the 35 recipes, but then you see that this is a simple process. It’s all color-coded, and you can pick it up very quickly. When we first opened there were 50 customers in line, we had all new employees, and it still went really well.
They also have excellent on-site training. They spend a lot of time talking about how to deliver the best-tasting smoothie in the planet, and I believe that it is. Our business is about educating customers. We emphasize sampling. Since we serve a fruit-based concept, we simply ask new customers what their favorite fruit is and start from there.
What sets Planet Smoothie apart?
It’s a premium product. The quality and freshness of the ingredients set it apart.
It’s a healthier product because it’s not loaded with sugar and is lower in calories. Some of the add-ins can give you 20 percent of your vegetable servings in a day, and it still tastes good. The protein in the smoothie is very appealing, as well as the açaí.
The other thing that’s great is that it’s easy to suggest add-ins to the customer because those things are good for them. So many kids drink energy drinks, but these are so much better. You can get the energy from a fruit smoothie without all the negative effects of an energy drink.
We let our employees know that they are working for the best smoothie concept, and they naturally show enthusiasm for the product — they get to offer a treat that makes our customers feel good.
How hard is it to add multiple stores?
It’s like having one child, then adding another. It gets harder, but as you add more stores you can add layers of management. Three stores was harder than five because with five I was able to add a regional manager. Now with 10 stores I have two regional managers. I am very fortunate to have had consistency on the management level.
If this were easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy, but with experience you become more adept at juggling a lot of things. There will be days when multiple problems emerge and you have to put out a lot of fires!
I work seven days a week. My stores are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. I don’t know how many hours I work a week. Eighty? But the nice thing is that today you can work from anywhere in the world. My husband and I enjoy traveling. I was on a river cruise on the Danube while we were putting part of a Planet Smoothie together. I don’t know which country I was in when I was handling the details. Bulgaria, maybe?
Do you enjoy it?
I love it. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My grandfather built railroad lines across the U.S. My dad and brother were entrepreneurs. I like the challenge of looking for ways to grow my business and to maximize my marketing techniques. I also enjoy making suggestions for new products that are really creative.
What do you like best about Planet Smoothie?
I like that we give such a great experience to our customers. I have two great-tasting products, and they really resonate with the customers. I like that I am doing something positive in people’s lives. I like the rewards of owning my own business. I also love business, making new deals and being able to put things together that would not have seemed possible. I also like being able to rise to the challenge, and there are many.
Before I started my own businesses, I was a professional fundraiser, and philanthropy is important to me. We give cases of water to missions downtown so they can pass it out to people who need it. It’s not only about making money. It’s about giving back.
How do health trends affect your businesses?
In a very positive way. Food and restaurant magazines always say that there is a trend toward healthier choices, and I think Planet Smoothie is positioned very well in the marketplace.
What advice would you give others who are considering a Planet Smoothie franchise?
Location is critical. That is the first and foremost ingredient to consider — you need foot traffic and drive-by traffic. Then you need to think about the commitment you want to make. You are not merely buying something as a financial investment — you need to be there as a real participant, so you should be prepared to invest time, too.
Would you recommend Planet Smoothie to someone thinking about starting a business?
I definitely would. I think it’s a great franchisor and a great product. The systems are there, and they are working hard to build the brand. It’s still young and in its growth phase, and it’s exciting to be on the ground floor. Sometimes if you wait too long the best locations get snatched up.