SCALING THE CONCEPTUAL PEAK
Last time we began our exciting journey to the smoothie gold fields. In that first leg we learned not to leave home without three things: drink formulation, blender durability and portion control. The first may seem obvious, but if you neglect the other two, youíre on your own, partner.
The second landmark on our business map to smoothie success is Lookout Point, found only at the top of Mount Concept. In itself, a smoothie store concept is an absolute necessity, but it also sets the compass for much of your later growth. (And in this business, youíre only as viable as your next store opening). Only from a clear conceptual vantage can you gain an unobstructed view of your business, its location in the industry and its potential for the future. However, several formations must be conquered on your way to the peak. They include Inspiration Point, The Plateau of Themes, and the Prominence of Location.
Letís begin at the foot of Mount Concept and head up to Inspiration Point. Our first step asks what will be the source of our stores concept? Shall we be totally original, should we buy our concept, or should we imitate it? (All good claim jumpers are familiar with the latter!) If we choose to go it on our own, several considerations present themselves right off. For example, will we be loners or partners?
Loners are drive-by stores that serve and then dismiss their customers, or they could be destination stores where people come to stay and socialize. If you choose the latter you will need to offer more store footage to seats, tables lavatories, TVís and computers for internet surfing. And of course, donít forget some striking dťcor!
Partner stores usually join smoothies with other food vendors. Both will benefit from the increased foot traffic. Examples here would include placement in a grocery store or co-branding in an established burger or sandwich shop. And donít think other prospectors are ignoring this bonanza. Bookstores are also including smoothie bars as a healthy supplement for their readers who wish to read and refresh all in one spot. Smoothies are even popping up in traditional clothing stores as a cafť partner!
If we decide to buy our concept, we have at least two choices. The first is the ever ready industry scout known as a consultant. Professional, yes, but how much is this gonna cost me? Anywhere from $12K-$20K plus residuals for a single operation. Thatís steep, but so is the fall from a lousy concept. Second, I could chain myself for extra protection. That is, I could buy a franchise. Imagine that, for one price I get the blueprint for drink names, recipes, dťcor, logo and sourcing of equipment and supplies. That price, however, has a way of coming back and back. In addition to those friendly residuals of 5% - 6% off the gross, I see in the fine print "yearly" connected to the words "franchise fee." Oh well.
Finally, if imitation's the highest form of flattery, then I know a lot of flattering smoothie shops. Itís not that theyíve been spying on their competition, they just kind of like their cute drink names, their fancy decors, even the format of their literature. Why, they love them so much that theyíve taken to filing their entire operational process (just for enjoyment!) Well, Iím not telling you something you donít already know, but it does tax the innovators to support the drones. Itís a shame that some of these investors (vultures) plain donít care where their gold (blood) comes from.
After we get beyond Inspiration Point, a stifling quicksand awaits many an unsuspecting prospector on the Plateau of Themes. Itís called a plateau, you know, because itís kind of flat there, no real points of distinction. Everything and everybody all look just the same. In smoothie terms, lifeís a beach. Everyone wants to be a tropical paradise. The names waft of island breezes and the colors shimmer of hot pinks, oranges and yellows. Nice ambiance, but increasingly overdone. Some of the trailblazers separating themselves from the pack have emphasized the healthy qualities of their fruits and juices, even their filtered waters. Others stress the uniqueness of their blend-ins. Rather than paying 50 cents per fiber blend, their customers are offered combinations of oats, wheat and rice for one single price. Some blend-ins proffer heightened intelligence, while others tout their increased cardiovascular circulation. The drive for market distinction and brand loyalty, however, does eat up a ton of your precious profits, so choose your hats and I-shirts wisely.
The last part of our climb takes us to the Location of Prominence. Itís right near the very top of Mount Concept. Of the tree, it is perhaps the most important. Your location to a large extent will determine what you are and who youíll attract. If you prefer an upscale image, youíd better be prepared to pay rent on Park Place and Boardwalk. Suburbs are great for the family environment and where people donít mind driving a ways to devour nectars. What better location for a healthy concept than to be housed in a health club? Next door is not bad either. If you want a young hangout, how about next to one of those comedy clubs? If you know where your bread is really buttered, spots next to high schools and colleges can pay for themselves in a few summer days. And donít give up on malls or city street corners. Both have a way of attracting those within their walking distance.
Speaking of walking distance, we are now only an ice cubeís throw from todayís destination, Lookout Point. From there, we will see more clearly than ever before the road that lies before us, as well as our competitors on all sides. Fir we have risen above the dingy atmospheres and sticky floors of the poorly run shops, the high food costs of the portion impaired, the bland flavors and random drink names of the uninspired knock-offs, and the eclectic hodgepodge of the conceptually undecided.
If we have truly achieved a solid conceptual foundation, future progress is more likely to be an extension of your proven successful plan, rather than a continual shot in the dark hoping to cash in on that one lucky blend. Not only will your stores enjoy greater individual success, but other prospectors will view for the privilege of sharing in your mother lode as licensed franchisees.
Well now that weíve calibrated our compass, weíre ready to pursue our journey with ever increasing vigor and resolve. See you next time, when weíll follow our conceptual lodestar right to the golden vein of rewarding smoothies.