A Q&A with Smoothie King CEO Wan KimAuthor: Smoothie King
Last week, we hosted a Q&A with Smoothie King CEO Wan Kim. The 45-minute conversation between Wan and Smoothie King Chief Business Development Officer Kevin King was loaded with amazing anecdotes and insights from Wan. If you missed it the first time around, you can listen to the full Q&A below.
We received a lot of questions and while we were able to answer some of them, we weren’t able to answer everything. With that in mind, we put together Wan and Kevin’s responses to the questions we didn’t get to – take a look:
Q: Were the locations that were shut down during the initial onset of this pandemic considered essential and were able to stay open?
A: At the beginning of the pandemic, some stores initially closed because they were confused about the local orders. Our stores are now open, with a few exceptions of some downtown locations, and we expect to remain open even with tighter restrictions going forward. We have made numerous operational adjustments that exceed all of the individual state and local mandates and better ensure our guests’ safety, including requiring all team members and guests to wear facial coverings; increasing hand washing, wearing gloves and asking team members who are under the weather to stay home; and we also rolled out delivery and curbside pick-up to limit the number of people in a store at any given time.
Q: What is the strategy to promote black-owned and women-owned franchisees?
A: We are a very diverse organization. Wan is an immigrant and minority and a significant percentage of our franchise system is made up of minority owners. We are an open and inclusive culture, welcoming everyone regardless of race and gender. Our highest priority is to support the success of each of our franchisees.
Q: Even though Undercover Boss was only recently aired, it was filmed several months ago. Have you made any changes based on your experience from the show?
One of the key learnings for Wan because of participating in the show was how critical communication is for the success of brand initiatives. After we rolled out Clean Blends, Wan learned just how important it was for team members to know the “why” behind decisions and we need to do a better job of delivering that information to the store teams. Even if the franchisees knew, we needed the team members to know it and believe it.
Q: Is the company exploring increasing the number of corporate stores?
We are continuing to grow our footprint. We currently have 39 company stores and expect to add 4-to-6 additional stores per year moving forward.
Q: What differentiates Smoothie King from other smoothie shops?
A: We believe our mission and vision are key differentiators between us and our competition. Our mission is to inspire people to live a healthy and active lifestyle and our vision is to be an integral part of every health and fitness journey. These guide our decision-making and influence our approach to product development. Our smoothies are conceived with our guests’ purpose in mind. While they’re made with the best ingredients and taste amazing, they’re also functional – which is reflected in our menu categories – Fitness Blends, Slim Blends, Wellness Blends and Break Time Blends. Most of our competitors’ products contain artificial ingredients, colors and flavors. Also, most contain a lot of added sugar. And, we may be biased, but ours just simply taste better.
Q: Wan and Kevin, what is your favorite smoothie?
A: Wan's favorite is High Protein Almond Mocha, but he also drinks other smoothies depending on his needs for the day. Kevin's favorite is The Activator Coffee with peanut butter.
Q: Have you considered partnering with fitness centers to have a Smoothie King inside the center?
A: We generally prefer to be close in proximity to fitness centers rather than inside, but we do have stores in fitness centers today. We like the proximity so that we can capture the interest of guests who share our enthusiasm for living a healthy and active lifestyle.
Q: What brand collaborations, if you could dream of a perfect partnership, would you consider activating?
A: We continue to believe that sports teams and athletes make a great connection to the brand. We also know that there are opportunities with fitness gear companies, nutritional product companies and others that hold a similar mission and vision to Smoothie King. As I’m sure you can appreciate, we aren’t naming names as we don’t want to disclose confidential plans.
Q: Is there an innovation/science application that would allow someone to buy a 6 or 12 pack of smoothies and keep them frozen until use? Seems like there may be formulas that could be viable for “buy-in-store blend-at-home”?
A: Wan had mentioned a subscription-based smoothie line earlier this year, but we don’t have additional details about that quite yet. Stay tuned for more information!
Q: What are the largest obstacles you face to growing the brand into a health and fitness identifier?
A: A couple of the biggest challenges we face is building brand awareness in markets where we’re just beginning to develop as well as effectively re-educating consumers that a smoothie is not a sugar-laden, ice cream equivalent. We have clearly built our brand along the Gulf Coast and the Southeastern United States in general. As we fill in markets throughout the Midwest, Sunbelt and West Coast, we’re putting significant energy into not educating consumers about our brand and mission as well as the health benefits of a smoothie. With Clean Blends, we’re able to demonstrate that our smoothies are made with the highest quality ingredients and are functional rather than simply a cold treat that most of our competitors are known for. The more hands that we can put our smoothies in, the better our opportunity to reposition our products as functional beverages that are an integral part of our guests’ health and fitness journeys.
Are You Ready to Learn More?
We want to express our sincere gratitude to those who attended the Q&A with Wan and took the time to submit their questions. It’s important for us to stay connected with everyone who shows interest in our brand and desires to learn more about what makes Smoothie King such an amazing company.If you’re interested in diving deeper into our company and franchise opportunities, we encourage you to download our Franchise Kit. Click here to get immediate access!