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How SoBol is Coping With the Coronavirus Crisis

SoBol CEO & Founder Jason Mazzarone explains how the acai bowl and smoothie franchise is set up for success during this difficult time.

The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is increasing by the hour, and businesses around the world are feeling increasing pressure. To learn how one company, SoBol, is coping with the ongoing crisis, 1851 Franchise spoke with Jason Mazzarone, the brand’s CEO and founder. Mazzarone described how SoBol is adapting to a new consumer landscape and what decisions he’s making as an executive to support his customers, staff and franchisee community. 

First and foremost, Mazzarone said, the brand is looking to its founding principles for guidance.

“Now more than ever, we have to rely on our company values,” Mazzarone said. “If our mission is to improve others’ days and make people smile, we need to keep people positive and focused so we can come out better than ever before.” 

Despite the circumstance, Mazzarone says he’s still confident in SoBol’s future. Much of that confidence can be attributed to SoBol’s durable grab-and-go business model, which implemented a third-party delivery partnership back in 2018. 

“How fortunate we are, as a large percentage of the restaurant business in whole has been decimated. There’s a lot of companies that don’t have the advantages our model provides,” Mazzarone said. 

Still, Mazzarone admits the business is facing some challenges, especially since the majority of the brand’s locations are in New York, the state with more confirmed COVID-19 positive cases than any other. Safety is SoBol’s top priority, Mazzarone said, and the franchise is taking measures to ensure the wellbeing of all the brand’s stakeholders.

Those measures include giving all franchisees the option to close without fees, ongoing support and help with re-launches when the market recovers. 

“We told employees, if you don’t want to be put on the schedule, please let us know. If you want more shifts, let us know and we will be happy to accommodate. Some didn’t want to chance it, and I get that,” Mazzarone said. “We need our people to feel comfortable so they can stay positive and put on a brave face. 

Whatever decision employees make, Mazzarone says they will receive the full support of the franchise and their jobs will not be affected when stores re-open. 

To streamline operations and promote social-distancing during the crisis, the already small-footprint store has eliminated indoor seating and is encouraging credit card use, when possible, for non-contact payment. Previously self-serve coffee is also now served by employees, and condiments and utensils are now kept behind the counter. 

“This is a global issue,” Mazzarone said. “we’re in this together. We’re always trying to do the right thing for our employees, customers and franchisees. Every decision is made in their best interest.” 

SoBol has also increased its charitable efforts to support its store communities through the crisis, including making donations to local chefs out of work, donating acai bowls to homeless shelters and providing discounts to first responders and healthcare workers.

Personally, Mazzarone said the experience has , “been an emotional roller coaster, especially for a young entrepreneur.” The silver lining, he said, is that “now people want to become more educated. Franchisees need more reassurance than ever during this hard time, and I’m happy to report we haven’t had any layoffs”. 

Mazzarone says the crisis has also provided an opportunity for SoBol to focus on its core operations.  “Now is a great time to work on our business operations manual. We can take this time to figure out what we can do to be a better franchise, offer franchisees more support and implement more efficient operations,” he explained. 

“The SoBol team has really risen to the challenge, and they are eager to be productive during these unforeseen, trying times,” Mazzarone said “I couldn’t have more respect, and I’m really proud.”