Planet Smoothie Franchise Review: Q&A with Fernando Kohler
Miami franchisees, Planet Smoothie franchise area developer plan to help open dozens of locations
Fernando Kohler has big plans for the Planet Smoothie franchise in South Florida. The Brazil native has helped build brands before. As a manager for Subway, he helped that company expand throughout Latin America. Now he sees an opportunity to do the same with Planet Smoothie in and around Miami.
Fernando opened his first Planet Smoothie and Tasti D-Lite franchise Oct. 1 at 5723 NW Seventh St. in Miami. It will serve as a flagship for other Planet Smoothies in South Florida. Today, there are three. Fernando plans to add dozens more. As area developer for South Florida, he envisions as many as 70 Planet Smoothies from Miami to West Palm Beach.
“Over the next few years, I plan to help open two to three locations a year,” he says. “As brand awareness grows, I expect growth to accelerate.”
We asked him to share his story.
What were you doing before becoming a Planet Smoothie franchise owner?
I started my franchising career working for a large sandwich franchise, which has a regional headquarters in Miami that supports operations throughout Latin America. I was a manager who made sure all processes were in place, and that every time we opened a store in a new country, we were complying with all the standards, that we could import restaurant equipment or find local suppliers, and the same thing for ingredients.
Subway hired me because they were looking for someone who could speak English, Spanish and Portuguese. They were very interested in growing in Brazil, which is where I was born.
How did you settle in Miami?
I came to the U.S. as a high school exchange student and lived with a family in a small town in Massachusetts. It was a unique experience, and I made some great friends. I still consider them family. I moved to Miami after going to college in Brazil. One of the members of my host family moved to Miami, which gave me a connection when I first came to the U.S. Miami immediately felt like home — I can find the food I grew up with and people I share a lot in common with. I’ve been here for 13 years.
How did you first learn about Planet Smoothie?
I was never a smoothie guy before Planet Smoothie. I was starting to exercise and looking for healthier things to eat, and that’s how I ended up at Planet Smoothie. I got hooked. I was a customer of the first store in South Florida, in Doral. I live downtown, and I would drive a lot to get my Planet Smoothie.
What do you like to get?
I usually get the Planet Pro. There is a lot of great stuff on the menu, including limited time offerings that come out regularly.
What made you want to open one?
I was looking for additional opportunities after the sandwich franchise. It has been incredibly successful, and has so many locations, that it can be difficult to find areas that aren’t already being served. I realized that Planet Smoothie did not have a lot of locations in Miami, and it was a great business with a lot of room to grow. The entire city was open for development — you can pick almost any good location and put a store there.
Planet Smoothie also has a very simple business model. You don’t have to cook anything, you don’t have to bake anything, you don’t need a lot of staff to operate a store. I have a simple operation; if I need to do it myself in a pinch, I can.
Plus, once people know it, they love it because it is a quality product. People who try our smoothies are always like, “Whoa!” because they are surprised just how good they are.
I am now the area developer for Planet Smoothie for South Florida, so in addition to opening my own locations, I will be supporting other franchisees.
What do you like about the business?
The simplicity. You have plenty of work to do, but it is all very simple. You just have to make sure you follow all the steps so your customers are being served well. And it’s nice to serve a great product. Giving people something that is good for them is rewarding. It’s a lot better than serving french fries.
Do you have a business partner?
Since I became an area developer — which involves supporting franchisees and scouting potential store locations — I decided to bring in a partner. Domira Bande is co-owner of our first location.
What are your growth plans for the Miami market?
Over the next few years, I plan to help open two to three locations a year. As brand awareness grows, I expect growth to accelerate. I expect to open another store or two myself, but my main focus will be supporting others and growing the brand throughout South Florida. As far as how many stores could fit in South Florida — 30, 50, 70? I’m not sure what the ceiling is. There is a lot of potential.
What’s it like working with the Planet Smoothie headquarters team?
To me, it’s really interesting how the whole team is set up because it’s a brand with a lot of stores, and they are able to manage it with a small team because of the simplicity of the stores. We are not talking to a corporation with 500 people that you don’t know. It is very personal. People take your phone calls. I have nothing to say but good things about these folks. They are really committed to growing the brand. We want to grow, we want to win, and that’s what they are there for.
What makes Planet Smoothie different?
Other smoothie concepts don’t focus a lot on health. If you really start looking at their products you don’t see a low fat content and a low sugar content. That sets us apart. We are ahead in terms of product development and making healthier smoothies.
What kinds of people will you be looking to add as Planet Smoothie owners in South Florida?
People who are willing to work their business. The success of the franchisees comes from their dedication to the business. If you aren’t focused and dedicated, you aren’t going to succeed at any brand. But if you love what you do and are dedicated to it, it will have a big impact on your results and on your community. When you are passionate, and you believe in what you are offering, you can communicate with customers at a whole different level. Everybody is looking to make money at the end of the day, but if you have passion for what you do, it shows up in your results.
Take an in-depth look at the franchise opportunity
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