“Leaves a little bit to be desired.” That’s the verdict that Mike Rotondo remembers most from a fateful run of focus-group testing conducted by Tropical Smoothie Café in early 2008.“We got rave reviews, [for our smoothies]” Rotondo said, but when the line of questioning turned to food, the chain’s loyal—and surprisingly decorous—customers reported that their desires had been, well, left unattended.“We thought there was a huge opportunity there,” said Rotondo, vice president of operations for ...

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