$19 million a year selling juice drinks & smoothies.

Brandon Gough, left, is Juice It Up's president, and Larry Sidoti, the co-founder who helped create the original juice and smoothie recipes in the kitchen of his Southern California condo. The ompany expects to open 55 locations this year along, bringing their total to more than 140 units. They attribute some of their success to the intense level of support they provied to each ranchisee.

Customers flock to Juice It Up! smoothie and juice bars for their delectable smoothies, concocted within vibrant, energy-infused surroundings, replete wit h the sound of blazing blenders and the aroma of fresh-squeezed juices.

But having just celebrated its 10th birthday in 2005, Juice It Up! is proving equally tantalizing with its behind-the-scenes business acumen that has the 88-store franchised chain already positioned to have its best year ever in 2006 with plans to open 55 new locations, the most in its history. It comes on the heels of Juice It Up! increasing its systemwide sales by 42 percent in 2005 to $19.1 million. Same-store sales improved 12 percent over 2004.

Juice It Up! specializes in the “Southern California style” juice bar and has positioned itself among the top three leaders in the smoothie industry with its blended-to-order fresh-fruit smoothies, fresh-squeezed juices and other beverages served in a relaxed, family-friendly environment. Locations are in California, Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Washington and New York. Growth in 2006 will be primarily in northern California and Arizona along with Nevada.

The chain has quietly blossomed since co-founder Larry Sidoti developed the original recipes in the kitchen of his Southern California condo. In March 2004 a new store design debuted featuring a unique fusion of bold colors and materials, accompanied by a new branding campaign that further promoted Juice It Up’s energized atmosphere and healthy products. The new stores have a modern, motion-driven design incorporating concentric circles, curved counters and display space.

But that’s only part of the puzzle. Two new products have been a hit with customers. In 2001, the Brazilian Blends smoothie line was introduced featuring unique tropical fruits from the Brazilian Amazon. It was followed in 2005 with Healthy Way juices, a line of 100-percent fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices.

In addition, a new Corporate Training Center was opened in 2005 within Juice It Up’s headquarters in Irvine, California, featuring a fully operational store model for training of new franchisees. The business development team, headed by Sidoti, negotiates every lease for new franchisees and relies on its network of relationships with prominent developers to secure 90 percent of the sites for Juice It! Up stores.

Not only is Juice It Up! growing in terms of store openings, but its corporate support staff has ballooned as well. Three years ago, Juice It Up’s corporate staff consisted of four employees. Today, there are close to 20.

“What separates us is our ability to move quickly,” said Sidoti, Juice It Up’s vice president of business development. “It’s our ability to make decisions without bureaucracy. The level of support we give our franchisees is critical.”

Juice It Up! opened its first 800-square-foot store in a strip shopping center in Brea, California, in 1995. Within the first year, two more locations were opened and all were successful within a few months. Sidoti, who financed the launch with his savings, credit cards and seed money from friends—never considered the option that he might not succeed.

“We were guerilla marketers,” he said. “We did whatever it took to educate people about smoothies and get them into our stores. When you have everything on the line, you tend to go beyond the normal scope of what’s required.”

After it had grown to 35 stores in Southern California, Juice It Up! began franchising in 1998, about the same time that it caught the attention of Frank Easterbrook, now the company’s CEO and sole owner since 2001.

A former senior executive with M&M/Mars, Inc. and Nestle, Easterbrook had been CEO and owner of Horizon Surgical, Inc., from 1990 to 1997, a company that manufactured and held three U.S. patents for an implant medical device. After the company was acquired in 1997, Easterbrook remained to oversee the transition and relocated to Raleigh/Durham, N.C., where he met a Juice It Up! licensee and became intrigued with the company. What began as a small investment eventually led to Easterbrook taking over the reins of Juice It Up! in 2001.

“I saw it as a ‘better for you’ product,” Easterbrook said. “Having been in the health and medical industry and working closely with surgeons and cardiologists, I saw firsthand the results from poor eating habits. People wouldn’t get themselves into those situations if they were drinking smoothies instead of eating fast food.”

Juice It Up! smoothies have consistently been voted “best tasting” in blind taste tests conducted by third party organizations, when compared to the top smoothie and juice bar retainers. Every Juice It Up! smoothie contains up to five servings of fruit blended with proprietary fruit juice blends along with custom yogurts and sherbets.

Brandon Gough, Juice It Up’s president, uses the term “community-based” when describing his chain’s local stores. The vibrant energy of Juice It Up! stores, which attract a wide cross section of guests, strikes a chord with consumers. The new store prototype introduced in 2004 even features a “community board,” a chalkboard in each location where customers can write fun messages or simply doodle while they wait for their order with the store’s upbeat music reverberating in the background.

“When you go into our stores, the idea is that they embrace you,” Gough said. “There are very few barriers to entering the smoothie industry, but our brand is something we have spent a lot of time developing. Everything in our store revolves around it, but in the end, it’s the taste of our smoothies that differentiates us from the competition. Our tastes are more vibrant. It’s something our customers have grown to appreciate.”

Befitting its reputation as one of today’s most aggressively expanding foodservice chains, Gough said Juice It Up! is targeting 500 locations by 2010, primarily in temperate-climate states. Juice It Up’s traditional operating units range between 800 and 1,200 square feet and are located in strong retail, food, entertainment or theme centers with heavy foot traffic and accessibility to short-term parking. A food court model and kiosk program both offer further site options for the chain, which has non-traditional locations on college campuses, airports, gyms and sports arenas.

The smoothie industry originated with the Southern California surf culture of the 1950s and ’60s. With a young, ambitious senior management team led by the experience and knowledge of Easterbrook, the perfect wave seems to be cresting for Juice It Up!, which appears to have all the elements for continued success in place.

“I’ve been with leading corporations and learned to recognize what ‘right’ looks like,” Easterbrook said. “They have structures, procedures and systems in place and I’ve followed that strategy with Juice It Up! to form a solid foundation. When you’ve been there and seen what it takes to be successful, you want to follow that in your own company and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Taken from WEB