A franchise’s location often proves crucial to its success, and SoBol is no exception.
The health-focused acai bowl brand works very closely with franchisees who need to find and select a location for their SoBol restaurant.
“What normally happens is a franchisee will purchase a territory and once they purchase that it gets turned over to the development team, and in the past franchisees will normally identify up to three locations they think might be a fit,” SoBol Director of Development Bill Mulaney said. “We will fly down and go there and look at each site and give our opinion.”
Franchisees do have a strict set of guidelines with which to work. SoBol franchises do best, for example, when they are located close to office buildings and schools, particularly high schools and colleges.
“Schools are huge,” Mulaney said. “Our demographic is a younger crowd, so if we can get near a school it generally bodes well for a franchise.”
In addition to being located in areas with a substantial population, the brand also wants to be in high-traffic areas that have a lot of visibility. Restaurants that face the street, for example, are much better positioned.
“If we’re buried in a center it’s a bit more difficult to get that driveby,” Mulaney said.
While SoBol takes its franchisees choices into consideration, Mulaney noted that the executive team does extensive research on the market before anyone even visits the area to help the franchisee scope out and select a spot.
“We generally do a lot of homework on our end before we even go down and look at a site,” Mulaney said. “And in some of the markets we’re not familiar with, we count on the franchisee to really help us identify spots where there might be higher traffic counts. Because they’re from the area they might have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t work.”
Sometimes, the real estate process is a one-and-done situation.
“It could be that the franchisee’s first choice is our first choice,” Mulaney said. “That does happen in some cases. Generally, with them knowing the market they tend to pick out some pretty good locations.”
According to Mulaney, SoBol franchisees should consider assessing locations that are close to other health-oriented brands, such as gyms, particularly smaller gyms, bike stores, running stores, health food stores and outdoor activity stores.
“That tends to be our demographic of people coming into our store,” Mulaney said. “We’ve had great success close to small gyms, and stores that are close to yoga studios and things of that nature tend to do well.”
The brand is mostly located within strip malls, but not enclosed malls. One of the main reasons for this has to do with an enclosed mall’s typical hours of operation.
“A lot of the malls have limited hours,” Mulaney said. “We open at 7 a.m., and a lot of things in the malls are not open that early. We do a tremendous amount of breakfast, so that would cut out part of our business if we were located within a shopping mall.”
Some SoBol franchisees have managed to take over spaces that previously served as food service facilities, which means the franchisee would not have to worry about a change of use permit and other common considerations.
“Everything is pretty much already there,” Mulaney said. “We go in and do some cosmetic work and install some equipment and we’re good to go. If franchisees can find food service locations on a smaller scale, those tend to be easier.”
The startup costs for a SoBol franchise range from $174,800 to $249,500. The franchise fee is $20,000. For more information about franchising with SoBol, visit https://ownasobol.com/.