Published on: September 25, 2023
Article Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle
As CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Charles Watson oversees hundreds of locations, franchisees and employees.
He also has to work the blender every now and then.
“When I go out and visit our cafes, sometimes the best thing for me to do is go back there and do some dishes, because that’s really what they need right at that moment.” Watson said. “They don’t need a heroic speech. They just need, ‘Hey, can you make a smoothie or can you do some dishes?'”
That hospitality mindset is the ethos of the culture Watson tries to instill at Tropical Smoothie. It’s built on strong work ethic, but also meeting people where they are, giving them what they need to give 100% every day.
For example, like most managers and executives, Watson believes Tropical Smoothie’s corporate support team will be most successful when they are regularly meeting in person. But he knows employees value the ability to work from home. So, he’s implementing the return to office at a slower pace than many companies.
Employees are mandated to be in the office one day per week right now. That mandate will bump up to two days in October and three days in January 2024.
“I want to be very understanding of people’s positions,” Watson said. “I’m OK doing it over time.”
The strategy seems to be working.
Tropical Smoothie is growing rapidly. The company opened its most locations in a single year in 2022. It’s on pace to break that record in 2023, Watson said. There are about 1,300 Tropical Smoothie Cafes in the United States today. The average location brings in about $1 million in revenue per year, according to the company’s franchise marketing materials.
Watson has been with Tropical Smoothie for 13 years. He started as the company’s vice president of franchise development before being promoted to chief development officer. He became CEO in 2018.
His background informs his philosophy of leadership at the company: Everything is about supporting its franchisees. The company has more than 465 franchise owners, many with multiple locations. All of their individual successes are what drives the company forward.
That’s why Watson is willing to be flexible with the support staff to keep them working at the highest level. It’s why he’s not above doing the job of an hourly employee if needed.
“We have to show service and hospitality to our franchisees,” Watson said. “If we do a good job with that, they’ll then show that service and hospitality to our guests.”