Smoothie Bars Can Go Anywhere!
Frozen drinks can dramatically boost beverage sales with relatively small investment.
It wasn't too long ago that smoothies were little more than a niche product akin to bean sprouts and the juice extractors hawked on television by the likes of Ron Popiel. In recent years, however, the flavorful, refreshing iced drink has made its way on to menus across the country.
And for good reason. With a wide variety of flavors, they appeal to diners. With substantial profit margins and low investments, they certainly appeal to operators.
Many operators say they are the perfect answer to customers who want frozen drinks but don't want the alcohol associated with Margarita's and daiquiri's.
Incremental Sales a Key
"The key to the smoothie business, in our opinion, is to have a good product, equipment that makes it well and enough traffic that is going to come back in the incremental times during the day to make it successful," Fayette says.
"You'll sell smoothies or frozen cocktails in the meal periods, but during off peak hours is when smoothie sales shine.”
Foot traffic, says Pinaili's Wade, is essential to successful smoothie sales.
He says they sell smoothies all year, though demand does slow in winter because there are fewer people out walking about. "It tends to slow down a little," he says. "In the spring and fall, there's a lot of walking around traffic at that time, then we can sell a lot more."
Still, he says, smoothies are in high demand, generating about $25,000 in sales at his restaurants.
Restaurants in areas with large concentrations of office buildings and workers will realize substantial sales.
"If (office workers can) go back there during those off-meal periods — 2 to 5 o'clock — they're going to do a lot of business," he says.
Low Investment, High Profits
With a multitude of flavors to choose from operators can offer customers more variety and cash in at the same time.
"Typically, a soda is going to sell for about a buck and a quarter. They are going to run a cost of 30 cents, let's say, for a fountain, maybe 35 cents, counting your cup, lid and straw so, they are making about a buck a drink. A smoothie is generally going to sell for about $3.50 to $4.75. Their cost is going to run between $1.25 to $1.75, so they're basically making two to three bucks a drink."
Investing in equipment to make smoothies is relatively low when considering the profits involved.
A commercial blender can cost between $500 to $1,300, depending on the quality. The ice machine is the biggest investment, and most restaurants already have one.
"Most operations are going to have a machine that puts out enough ice for them to use for soft drinks and frozen drinks," states Blendtec, a manufacturer of commercial blenders.
"So it is a pretty low investment for them if they already have that piece of equipment, then you need the highest quality all fruit smoothies to ensure you get repeat customers, anybody can serve a cheap smoothie, make sure you serve the best, and your recipe for success is ensured.”
If an operator is able to build volume into such sales, the profits can be staggering. "It depends on the amount of traffic, but we've got some of the high-volume ones that do 500-plus smoothies a week."
Surprisingly, he says there is no trade-off on soft drink sales involved, for the most part you’re your smoothie program is a healthy on-trend all fruit smoothie, you become a destination smoothie shop. Customers will seek you out. People who want soft drinks are still going to buy them, he insists. But, even the soda drinkers will purchase smoothies from time to time when they are in the mood for them.