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Executive Q&A with Robeks President David Rawnsley

Robeks President David Rawnsley shares why the emerging smoothie franchise is an exciting franchise opportunity.

1851: What void does Robeks fill? What was the initial inspiration for the brand?

David Rawnsley: In the past, Robeks’ competitors tried to claim the health food space, and it became too crowded. There was no opportunity to distinguish ourselves. Robeks made a decision to focus on flavor first. The health appeal was inevitable given the category and our product had always tasted better than that of the competitors. Soon, we began to prioritize new menu items that were innovative within the market and distinguished ourselves as a creative, flavor-first smoothie concept. 

1851: What is Robeks doing well right now? 

DR: Robeks takes exceptional care of everyone from associates to customers, with a commitment to making each guest experience as positive as possible. We make sure that each and every smoothie, juice and bowl is top-quality—anything less than a perfect smoothie is unacceptable. In addition, we continue unveiling innovative products that taste great and are healthy. The integrity and quality of our fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies are the very best on the market.

1851: What are the brand’s differentiators?

DR: First, our exceptional team of associates and team members who provide a positive, upbeat experience. Second, our product is all-natural, with no artificial ingredients or additives.

Everyone's definition of health is different—some consumers only want sugar-free, plant-based superfoods with antioxidants and other consumers are in the gym every day and want the protein and calorie intake. As opposed to the competition, the Robeks menu is uniquely designed to meet every and any customer’s definition of health.

1851: What are your growth goals? What is your vision for the Robeks brand?

DR: Robeks currently has 83 franchise locations across the country. Now, we are looking to grow our footprint by 15% in 2020, with a compounded growth of 20% for 2021. That equates to 14 units in 2020 and 20 units in 2021. We are primarily focused on growing existing markets currently. These next two years are what's going to create momentum for Robeks, then we’ll start to explore the opportunity for multi-unit operators in new markets. 

Robeks is not growing just for growth’s sake. When companies put too much emphasis on fast expansion, their supplies and strategy suffer. We’ve committed to strategic growth to ensure that each franchisee receives the necessary support to succeed.

1851: What were some learning opportunities that the brand leveraged to get to where it is now?

DR: We’ve learned throughout the years that there are two variables necessary for successful franchising: the right operator and the right location. I am a franchisee myself, which gives Robeks an additional lens to look through when making corporate decisions. Whether it be in regards to product rollouts or the impact of new items on operations, I can relate to the day-to-day challenges of owning a store.

I operated as a franchisee for five years before joining the corporate office and still own one location to keep that day-to-day perspective fresh. By being more hands-on operationally, our leadership team can make the right decisions for both the overall brand and the store level. 

1851: What have been the highlights of your career with the brand?

DR: In 2005 I signed on as a regional director and master franchise partner for Robeks’ Southern California footprint, helping prospective franchisees make sure it was the right investment for them. In 2008, I became a franchisee myself and continued focusing on development. In 2014, I joined the corporate team as CFO and became the brand’s president in 2015. Robeks began rolling out a new menu and brand revamp in 2017, adopting a more contemporary theme, eventually developing a strong mobile ordering offering in 2018.

1851: What are the ideal qualities of a Robeks franchisee?

DR: The ideal Robeks franchisee is passionate about leading a healthy and active lifestyle. They also want to give back to their community and provide a product they can feel good about selling and promoting.

Robeks is a simple business to run and no previous business or restaurant experience is required. Since our product comes in frozen, there is no need to hire chefs and the operational procedures are simplified. Owners can hire new team members quickly, and the staff is very manageable. Most Robeks franchisees are single-unit owner-operators heavily involved in the day-to-day store and their community.

1851: How does Robeks support franchisees?

DR: Robeks’ support infrastructure includes assistance in marketing and advertising, construction and site selection, vendor partnerships and a comprehensive training program. In addition, our annual franchisee conference held in Las Vegas creates a sense of community and actively encourages communication amongst franchisees and the corporate team. We also have quarterly meetings with the regional field managers for all territories. 

Each franchisee has a call with corporate on the third Wednesday of every month to share updates on their business and future plans. Robeks also has an annual, end-of-the-year gift card contest in which franchisees can receive cash prices if their store sells the most gift cards.