CEO Charles Watson shares the squeeze on his passion for the business in this Q & A.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s CEO, Charles Watson, grew up in the restaurant business, washing dishes and tending bar in his fathers’ Atlanta restaurants. He then took his firsthand knowledge of hospitality and went into hotel and restaurant management at Cornell, and later got his MBA from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia.
Now, as he rounds the first year in his role as CEO, Watson talks with Atlanta Business Radio X on the duality of his role, the importance of data, and what it takes to be a successful Franchise Owner in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe system. Hint: It has everything to do with passion.
Here are some of the highlights from the interview.
Q: What is the Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchise model?
A: We are a quick-casual restaurant that serves both food and smoothies. 60% of our sales is smoothies and 40% is food like wraps, flat breads, pressed sandwiches, and salads. And because of the combination of the two, we can have sales across multiple dayparts—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing Franchise Owners today?
A: Finding and retaining good staff. And that is a challenge for everybody today, not just us. And that ties directly into one of my key objectives for this brand: I want to elevate the level of hospitality and service at Tropical Smoothie Cafe. At a time when service is all but dead in this country, those who differentiate on service will have a competitive advantage.
Q: What roles do you have as CEO?
A: It’s almost like two businesses. One part is franchise development and helping entrepreneurs see why Tropical Smoothie Cafe is one of the best franchise opportunities out there. Then, once they buy the franchise, it’s all about supporting them. If I do one thing well, if our Franchise Owners make money, we will be successful. Everything will work out.
Q: How do you use data to help make business decisions?
A: Once upon a time in the restaurant business, you could literally just go with your gut. But with 750+ restaurants, making decisions like that is just too risky. So we use the tools we have to help us be smarter: database mining and analytics and visualization of data.
Q: Is there a profile of a perfect Tropical Smoothie Cafe Franchise Owner?
A: Demographically, no. We’ve got people as young as 23 years old and some who are in their 60s and 70s. But what they share is what I call the “passion piece.” It’s their connection to the brand and their ability to connect with others. They have to model what they want their employees to do. Friendliness, having a smile, attention to detail, work ethic. It’s really about passing it down. That’s ultimately what we look for in our Franchise Owners.
If you’d like to put your passion to work by owning a Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchise, click the Learn More button and complete our form.