Smoothie Franchise Comes To Fairfield

Smoothie Franchise Comes To Fairfield

July 07, 2008 // Franchising.com // FAIRFIELD, CT - Looking at the brick building of the new Robeks Fruit Smoothies & Healthy Eats on the Post Road in Fairfield, customers may not expect to walk in and see a room with bright orange walls and a brightly colored menu.

"That's what I love about this location," said Kasia Seremet, the 27-year-old who co-owns the Robeks franchise — at 1983 Post Road — with her husband, Tom Seremet. "I like the feel of the old brick outside, and then having a fresh California feel inside."

In the new Robeks, which Seremet and her husband opened on May 20, the goal is to make customers feel as though they are having a West Coast experience in their local East Coast neighborhood as they sip health-oriented smoothies, juice drinks, or chew on muffins, said Seremet. With a lot of help from their families, Kasia and Tom Seremet decided last year they would open a Robeks franchise in Fairfield, since they visited family in the area often and were both devoted customers of the Robeks in Stamford, where the couple lives, said Kasia Seremet.

"We have a lot of friends and family here so we're here a lot, and we have always loved the town," Seremet said. "We knew we wanted to open the business here."

Even though the Seremets had no experience as entrepreneurs, Kasia Seremet left a successful career at Pepsi in Purchase, N.Y., last year to start researching Robeks, while her husband kept his job as a computer programmer at Starwood's Hotels and Resorts in White Plains, N.Y.

Now, after a successful opening day — Seremet said about 300 customers came into the store for smoothies and other health foods — the business is maintaining its success.

"We weren't really prepared for such an amazing turnout," said Seremet, who has not done any formal advertising for the business yet. "I think people hear about it from word of mouth, and are really excited to see a Robeks in their area." Since opening, Kasia Seremet works in the store every day, while Tom Seremet comes in to help on weekends.

Like other Robeks stores, this Robeks has a menu consisting of a variety of healthy smoothies — which blend together fruit, non-fat frozen yogurt and natural juices — milkshakes, frozen yogurt, sandwiches and healthy energy snacks, such as "Power Muffins" and "Power Cookies." Every item has its nutrition facts posted next to it, so customers are aware of calories and nutritional value.

While all of Robeks' 157 franchises across the country carry the same healthy and nutritional food options, the owners of these franchises must also lead a healthy lifestyle, said Tony Bonwell, Robeks corporate vice president of real estate.

"Our franchisees believe in a healthy lifestyle, and they have a passion to bring this type of product to their communities," said Bonwell.

After choosing a franchisee — someone who ideally has a net worth of at least $300,000, said Bonwell — Robeks then looks to find a franchise site that fits its criteria.

Although Bonwell said many variables go into choosing a site, some of the major criteria include a location with a daily needs center such as a grocery store or drug store, proximity to a school and a median household income of about $60,000, with the theory that residents have a higher level of education, and are therefore more likely to make healthy choices.

Once approved and opened, a Robeks franchise such as the Seremets' is expected to pay 7 percent of sales annually in royalties to the corporate office and another 2.5 percent of annual profits must go to a national marketing fund, said Bonwell.

"We do have rules and standards that our stores need to follow, but we always encourage thinking outside the lines," Bonwell said.

Kasia and Tom Seremet's store is not the only new Robeks franchise that has passed corporate requirements and is now seeing high sales so far. Robeks expansion to the East Coast is also a growing success, according to Katrina Bickford, Robeks' regional director for Connecticut and southeast New York.

"It's so successful here because there is nothing else like it," said Bickford, who plans to open 40 more franchises in Connecticut and New York in the next year. "All food concepts are offering healthy choices, but that is really the core of what we are."

According to research firm Mintel International, the smoothie industry made $2 billion in sales in 2007, up more than 80 percent in five years.

"Folks have simply been looking for this healthier meal replacement," said Bonwell. "It's a guilt-free indulgence."

While fast food chains such as McDonald's and Subway continue to be the most successful franchisers, International Franchise Association spokesman Terry Hill said any corporation that can develop and consistently deliver a desirable product to its consumers can franchise successfully.

"To be a successful franchise, a company has to have a good product, and Robeks has found a niche in the healthy lifestyle area," said Hill.

Since franchises already have a successful product given to them by their franchiser, the main goal of the Seremets and their 19 part-time employees is to maintain consistency by delivering desirable Robeks products with good customer service.

"I want to make sure people have a good experience here," said Kasia Seremet. "I feel confident selling people my products because I eat and drink everything in the store and I can say with a clear conscience that it's good and healthy."

View all Robeks Fruit Smoothies & Healthy Eats Press R

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