QSR Magazine’s Fast Forward
By: Sam Oches
CEO Charles Watson sheds light on what it means to own a franchise in today’s changing restaurant climate, and the opportunities for growth that lie ahead.
Since transitioning from Chief Development Officer to CEO roughly six months ago, Charles Watson has overseen continued growth with the Tropical Smoothie Cafe® franchise, which includes goals to hit one billion dollars in sales and 1,500 units by the year 2023. In the following Q & A, Watson gets honest about the issues facing today’s Franchise Owners and what he is doing in his role as leader.
Q: How are technology trends, specifically third-party delivery services, impacting the Tropical Smoothie Cafe® business model?
Watson: We’re in the service business. That never goes away—it doesn’t matter how you deliver the product, the guest experience has to be first. Second, is technology. And for Tropical Smoothie Cafe®, the investments we make are driven by being able to service the guest the way they want to be serviced.
My job as a leader of our brand is to give us optionality. And that optionality goes back to creating a technological foundation in the restaurants and at our corporate support center to be able to attack those different distribution channels however they shake out.
Q: How are Franchise Owners responding to the current market’s low employment rates and rising wages?
Watson: Our franchisees are scared. I’m going to just put it right out there and say that. Does this business model continue to work? It does, and there are actions we can take. It’s not like this is the first time that wages have increased for restaurants.
And we’re doing a lot of things on the back end to ensure franchisee profitability. Because if your Franchise Owners are not making money, the whole thing implodes. And so that’s our number one focus.
Q: What else is in store for the brand?
Watson: We’re actually doing a brand study right now to really hone in on our customers’ wants. It’s so we can move the needle in a way that most speaks to our guests. However, the way we’re set up, our core smoothie and food items are core for a reason. Our consumers really, really like them. This year, we have put in a more robust product development process with expanded testing capabilities. Of course, whatever decisions we make as a brand moving forward, our Franchise Owners will be involved in those discussions.
And whenever looking ahead at the next biggest and brightest thing, whether that’s a food trend or whether that’s a technology trend, we’re going to be grounded in the ability to operate our businesses. That’s where the majority of our focus is.
To listen to the complete interview, click here. To learn more about franchise opportunities with Tropical Smoothie Cafe,® click on the GET STARTED button above.