In the 20 years that Eric Grush had worked at his father’s Smoothie King franchise in Metairie, Louisiana, he’d learned the ins and out of business operations and witnessed the brand go through a series of evolutions. Still, as a franchisee himself today, 2020 has been a balancing act.
Eric and his business partner, Brett Lawson, own five Smoothie King franchises – one in Gretna, Louisiana, and four in Birmingham, Alabama. Two are drive-thru units, which has helped throughout the pandemic – in fact, they’ve seen double-digit growth in sales for the year at these locations. On the other hand, another unit is in a mall and has been struggling.
All things considered, Eric views this year overall through a positive lens when it comes to his businesses. The good fortune he’s seen as a Smoothie King franchisee allowed him to participate in the $1,000,000 Smoothie Donation Initiative from earlier this year, supporting members of the community who were on the frontline.
The goodwill he generated through these activities has been paid back by a supportive community.
Giving Back to People on the Front Lines – with Interest Returned
As part of the donation initiative, Eric and his team donated over 1,000 smoothies to area hospitals, first responder organizations and senior care facilities.
To make it happen, Eric identified certain local organizations every week and donated a specific number of smoothies over the course of roughly six weeks. He and his team had access to a branded catering van to make the drop-offs, which ultimately helped the hospitals and other organizations recognize which Smoothie King was making the donation. Many of the hospitals posted the drop-offs to their social media accounts, further showcasing Eric’s and his team’s efforts.
In addition to being a uniquely rewarding experience, the donation initiative yielded positive word-of-mouth and gave his businesses a boost.
“Most, if not all, of the hospitals that we donated smoothies to ended up placing multiple orders for their staff, departments and administrators,” Eric explained.
Meanwhile, local community leaders saw what the Smoothie King corporate team was doing and reached out to Eric to support him as a small business owner. Some of these individuals included a councilman, chief of police, constable and members of the healthcare community.
One of the local hospitals in turn saw what all of the local businesses were doing to support essential employees and wanted to give back through its Pay Businesses Back Initiative, which resulted in a large catering order for Eric and his team.
“We got a lot of business during COVID that we probably would never have received if it hadn’t been for the initiative the Smoothie King corporate team put in place,” said Eric.
Continuing the Tradition of Supporting the Local Community
Prior to the pandemic, Eric and his team had an ongoing tradition of giving back to organizations in the local area. Internally, it’s referred to as Give-Back Wednesday.
Eric takes the opportunity at one of his stores to identify a local enterprise to donate smoothies to and drop off coupons on alternating weeks. He and his team arrive unannounced and surprise the businesses with the donations.
This type of event serves multiple functions: first, the recipients, who may never have heard of Smoothie King, are able to learn what the brand is all about; they sample some Smoothie King blends; and, ideally, these donations result in future business for Eric’s stores. Once the pandemic is under tighter control, he’s looking forward to getting these types of initiatives going again on a more regular basis.
Additionally, he and his team have also supported local schools with catering orders for fundraisers for sports uniforms, school supplies and books. As many of the school districts have reopened for the fall, Eric has had the good fortune to see increased activity with these events.
Like many people, Eric is looking forward to seeing 2020 in the rearview mirror, but he has a positive outlook for the coming year.
“I think a lot of good things are coming in 2021, hopefully not only for my business but for the whole country as well,” Eric said.