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Stepping Up Expansion Via Franchising

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Stepping Up Expansion Via Franchising

It’s often the smaller restaurant chain on the block that has to be faster, quicker and more strategic than its well-entrenched rivals. Faced with intense competition from several larger juice rivals, Main Squeeze Juice Co. is nevertheless on the upswing.

It has expanded to 28 locations in five states by the end of 2022 and is on target to add 10 more in 2023. “We’ve always grown strategically; it was important for us to have a rock-solid foundation before going after national growth,” explains Thomas Nieto, CEO of Main Squeeze Juice Company, based in New Orleans, La.

As with many chains, franchising is the key to its growth. Of its 28 stores, 26 are franchised and two are company-owned. And its 10 new ones will all be franchised.

By emphasizing healthy products and developing a slew of new franchised stores, Main Squeeze Juice Company is growing rapidly.

What has also boosted its growth has been the injection of capital from private equity firm, Conscious Capital Growth, based in Scottsdale, Az., which invests in a wide range of companies including Cold Stone Creamery, Atlanta Bread and Tap House Kitchen.

Nieto says that Conscious Capital Growth was an apt partner because of its “experience in franchising and operations.” Asked what its long-term visions were for Main Squeeze Juice, Nieto replied, “Their goal for us is to start scaling nationally.”

He says many of Conscious Capital Growth’s partners are former CEOs who ask “what are your goals, where do you want to be, and how can we accelerate them?”

Smoothie and fruit juice chains have been ascending over the last decade. Nieto says that “People today are demanding healthier eateries with accessibility. People are more conscious of the food they’re putting in their bodies.”

As CEO, Nieto’s goals are to “build a powerhouse brand that can make the biggest possible impact on as many customers and communities as possible.”

To that end, Main Squeeze Juice has expanded from New Orleans to Houston, Hattiesburg, Miss, and is developing 10 stores in Jacksonville, Fl, four stores in St. Louis, and just awarded a franchisee the state of Arizona.

Why franchise for expansion rather than develop company-owned stores where the owner exerts more control? Nieto replied, “Company-owned is slower and more methodical; franchising is more efficient.”

But he acknowledges that to make franchising work, it has to be “hyper selective of who we do deals with.” Moreover, he says the major pitfalls in franchising are choosing the wrong business partners or wrong locations.

He describes his ideal franchisee as “financially qualified, and there needs to be a passion for people and helping people, and doing what it takes to win and with a proven track record.”

Asked to differentiate Clean Juice from larger competitors, Smoothie King, Tropical Smoothie Café and Clean Juice, he says that its products are “100% plant-based liquid with no dairy, and everything in our store is based on whole fruits and vegetables, no ice. It’s 100% nutrient-dense smoothies.”

Indeed 70% of its revenue derives from juices and smoothies. And its three most popular products sold are cold-pressed juices, plant-based smoothies and wild-harvested bowls including acai bowls.

Most of its business is lunch-driven, but it recently introduced a new breakfast sandwich, filled with a Beyond Meat plant-based patty that is sold throughout the day. And it’s developing new products to increase breakfast and dinner sales.

Consumer response on Yelp was mostly positive. Andrew from New Orleans wrote that he wasn’t a “health juice person” but he liked Main Squeeze’s “general selection of juices, bowls and smoothies” and liked the fact that it offered one-sip samples of most of its menu. He also stayed there over an hour, had a meeting there, and was never interrupted.

But David from New Orleans found the bottled juice “very pricey” but noted that reward points could reduce the cost.

Nieto said that in the future it’s transforming processes that will “change ticket time from 3 minutes to 30 seconds. Our mission is to make healthy dining easy, making it taste amazing, be affordable but it has to be fast. That’s the world we live in today.”

He described the keys to its future as: 1) increasing bottom-line profitability, 2) streamlining operations to make it easier to run multiple franchises.

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