Tom O’Keefe, the new president and chief operating officer of Smoothie King Franchises Inc., says the company will create a new division for company-owned units as the 626-unit chain looks to expand under new ownership.
O’Keefe, who took the helm of the Covington, La.-based chain in January, said Smoothie King recently acquired a franchised unit in Miami, bringing the total to six company-owned units. He said the company has another franchised unit under contract in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and he foresees 30 company-owned units by the end of the year.
“We’re going to create a company-store division,” O’Keefe said in an interview early this week. “We’re targeting the Greater Miami and Greater DFW areas. … We think that we’ll be able to pursue more strategically situated real estate opportunities and have a base through which we can test.” He added that the company eventually would like 20 percent of the system to be company owned.
O’Keefe, who has worked with such brands as Popeyes, Church’s
“Wan is the master franchisee for South Korea,” O’Keefe explained. “He’s been in the business for 10 years. … He developed in excess of 100 units in Korea and some others in Singapore. What he brings to it is more than if a third-party outsider had acquired the company because he lived, breathed and operated the business. But he also has the ability to expand the brand in terms of offerings.”
O’Keefe said privately held Smoothie King has had 20 consecutive months and 11 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales, and sales were 3.5 percent positive in January.
The company currently has 509 domestic and 117 international stores, with 115 of the latter in South Korea, one in Singapore and one in the Cayman Islands.
“I’m bullish on the concept,” O’Keefe said. “I think we have a terrific product. Our consumers and our focus groups continue to tell us that. I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with the brand that I think has the best product out there.”
O’Keefe added that the health positioning of the brand was positive. “As there is more awareness being brought to healthy eating, lifestyles and choices, I think the product fits that,” he said.
He also said the brand has untapped potential in international and nontraditional development. “As I look across the board at the different ways to grow it, I think we have a lot of runway in each of the categories,” he said.
Smoothie King recently began offering a franchise development incentive program to celebrate the brand’s 40th anniversary, O’Keefe said. For the first 40 agreements signed in 2013, franchisees will receive 40 percent off the franchise fee, a savings of $10,000.
“We think our best options to grow are through our existing base,” O’Keefe said. “Currently more of our franchisees are single-unit operators rather than multi-unit, and we’d like to reverse that.”
Besides O’Keefe’s appointment, Smoothie King has re-appointed Joe Lewis, one of the original Smoothie King executives, as general counsel of the company.
CEO Kim said in a statement: “Joe was a critical team member in the early success of Smoothie King and this legacy knowledge will allow us to tap into the creative and driven mindset of the Smoothie King brand.”
Contact Ron Ruggless at email@example.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless