In this exclusive Q&A, we learn more about Tropical Smoothie Café from one of its newest franchisees, Michael Shattuck, former President of International at Focus Brands.
Franchise Chatter (FC): How long have you been with Tropical Smoothie Café? Why did you decide to join the brand?
Michael Shattuck (MS): Our agreement was signed last September. Having spent over 40 years in the industry, I’m not an easy sell. When looking to pick a brand for a development this size I have a process I work through.
Topline, it goes like this. First, I have to love the product. If you are not passionate about the product, don’t do it. I love the product, our smoothies are the best in the market and our chef-inspired food products have no peer in our category.
I next looked at the consumer positioning. Is it relevant? Does it resonate with a growing segment of the population and can it connect with secondary and tertiary market segments? Tropical Smoothie Café is spot on with Millennials and draws heavily from Gen-X and Gen-Y. This is a great group to serve encompassing the largest generation in the history of our country.
My third criteria is the people and the brand. Mike Rotondo has built a great culture at Tropical Smoothie Café that shows a true commitment to people: the people in our communities, the people we serve in our cafés, the people who purchase franchises and those who serve in the support center.
Of course, I looked at the economic model, but the first three are the litmus test, and Tropical Smoothie Café delivers a great financial model and opportunity to create value.
FC: What was your career prior to joining Tropical Smoothie Café? How did you get into this business/industry?
MS: I have been involved in food service for 43+ years starting as a crew person. My last corporate position was President of International at Focus Brands. I spent over 34 years of my career as a senior member of franchisor teams but also had the opportunity to run franchised operations in Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. My perspective from both sides of the relationship and extensive food service experience will be key contributors.
FC: Why did you choose to start your franchise business in this market? How many locations do you plan to open?
MS: I grew up in Terre Haute, IN and have resided in Alpharetta for the last 19 years. The diverse population of the greater Atlanta area, a relatively youthful population, and rebounding economy are primary factors for choosing this location. I believe getting in on the early stages of brand building in the Atlanta DMA provides tremendous growth opportunities.
When we did our detailed market study, we identified Snellville, Lawrenceville and Buford (Mall of Georgia area), and Duluth as primary launch targets. We were successful in securing a site in Snellville that we believe is an A-level location that matches our site profile to a high level. The demographics in the trade area closely match the groups we serve.
We see this launch as a great entry into the Gwinnett market that clearly positions us for a strong entry into the Quick Casual dining space in Gwinnett. Generally speaking, Gwinnett and Snellville have a great mix and diversity combined with solid growth that make for a nice landscape to work with. There is a high likelihood that our first six will be in Gwinnett.
FC: What made you decide to leave your career to invest in a franchise business?
MS: I am a strong proponent of the franchise business model and believe in the power of a group of driven people focused on the development of a brand. I also have strong feelings regarding leadership and the personal development of team members, so I wanted an escape from the corporate environment and the freedom to pursue my passion from these beliefs.
FC: What is your favorite aspect of being a franchise owner for Tropical Smoothie Café?
MS: The character of the brand and the opportunity I highlighted earlier. For myself, though, it is more than that. I view this as an opportunity to give back by sharing what I’ve learned through the decades with a whole new generation of people working in foodservice.
This industry has been good to me. I know not everyone who works with me will stay in foodservice but I remember my early days and the lessons I learned about personal accountability and responsibility as I grew up in the industry. It’s my time to give back and that is what I will enjoy most.
Of course, it will be great fun working in the extremely positive environment we create at Tropical Smoothie Café.