A little over a year ago, Scottsdale, Arizona-based Kahala Brands, one of the fastest growing franchising companies in the world with a portfolio of 18 quick-service restaurant brands, acquired Maui Wowi, a Denver-based smoothie and coffee franchise.
In this exclusive Q&A, we get to learn more about Maui Wowi from John Wuycheck, Senior VP of Development for Kahala Brands.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What initially turned Kahala Brands on to Maui Wowi as a secure investment?
John Wuycheck (JW): Kahala Brands was looking to strengthen their leadership and footing within the healthy treats/limited service segment and Maui Wowi’s dual beverage concept, which features gourmet Hawaiian coffee and fresh fruit smoothies, was the perfect addition.
This purchase further expanded Kahala Brands’ smoothie footprint to more than 800 locations and allowed Kahala to acquire a mature brand that is the industry leader in the mobile event space.
FC: How have Kahala Brands and Maui Wowi worked together to ensure a seamless transition since the acquisition?
JW: Kahala Brands is no stranger to acquiring new concepts, and has a seamless transition process for doing so. Further, the core Maui Wowi employees, including Founder Jill Summerhays, are now part of the Kahala Brands family. This has allowed for uninterrupted momentum for the Maui Wowi brand.
Regional Directors of Operations, or RDOs, are another tier of support within Kahala Brands. They connected with each franchisee on their home turf, informing them of new initiatives and working with them directly to help build the best system for Maui Wowi.
FC: What operational aspects of Kahala Brands has Maui Wowi incorporated into the franchise system?
JW: Here at the Kahala Brands corporate office, we have a full-service Franchise Development team who works within a strategic blueprint that has proven to be successful for all of our brands.
A unique part of our business is that we operate under a vertical in-house structure; meaning every facet of our business, from operations to marketing to creative to construction, is all done out of our headquarters. Franchisees now have a one-stop shop for any unique marketing they need, social media questions, menu questions, and more.
One immediate way Kahala Brands has been able to support the franchisees is by developing new menu boards to fit our diverse business models. This is one way that Kahala Brands will be able to use our resources to build better brand recognition for Maui Wowi across the nation.
FC: What are the day-to-day changes franchisees of Maui Wowi have seen since the brand was acquired by Kahala Brands?
JW: More support staff has been added, including a dedicated Research & Development team, six Regional Directors of Operations, and numerous other support staff, to aid Maui Wowi franchisees in the growth of their business. Our goal is to make the day-to-day life of our franchisees easier.
FC: Have you seen a mostly positive response from the franchisees?
JW: Overwhelmingly positive. We recently held our biennial Maui Wowi franchisee conference for the first time in Scottsdale where franchisees were able to tour the Kahala Brands Global Headquarters and meet face to face with senior leadership and other Kahala Brands employees. The franchisees let us know how important it was for them to meet the people they had been working with since late 2015.
FC: Have you worked with the franchisees, in addition to the corporate office, to get feedback and suggestions?
JW: Senior leadership of Kahala Brands has and will continue to work hand in hand with Maui Wowi’s Franchise Advisory Council (FAC) and Directors of Regional Support (DRS) to help elevate the brand. We will kick off the New Year with the FAC and DRS at a three-day meeting to work on strategic planning for 2017 and beyond.
FC: How has the Kahala Brands Research & Development department been able to push Maui Wowi forward?
JW: The brand is excited to announce the January 15th launch of the Green Smoothie, which was created in a joint effort by Founder Jill Summerhays and the Research & Development team at Kahala Brands. The Green Smoothie is a blend of orange, pineapple, and pear juices with a boost of spinach and is the first of its kind for the Maui Wowi brand.
We’ve had great successes with menu innovation at Kahala Brands through Cold Stone Creamery, Blimpie, TacoTime and more, so Maui Wowi’s sister brands are able to provide guidance as well.
FC: Do you foresee any partnerships in the future between Maui Wowi and any of the other Kahala Brands concepts?
JW: We are definitely exploring all opportunities for synergies between Maui Wowi and other Kahala Brands concepts.