There are so many fantastic reasons to add a juice or smoothie bar to your store. This service can bring in a whole new set of shoppers, boost sales in other departments and give you a great way to maximize the ingredients already in your store. But making sure your bar is a success takes research, planning, clear direction and innovation. We called in three experts to get you started.
Calculate costs. The number-one thing a retailer needs to know before anything else is cost. Understanding what the baseline costs are— equipment, employee labor, ingredients, etc.—will help greatly in eliminating surprises and making this project successful. Smoothie programs can be very profitable. We’ll sit down with our retailer partners and help them figure out ROI.
Invest in quality equipment. You want a high-quality commercial-grade blender from a manufacturer that offers a good warranty and has a solid reputation for service and support. A great company will be available to help out if issues come up and also assist you with recipe development, training and setup. Also remember that blenders can be noisy, especially if you have many going at once, so look for a model that is quiet.
Prioritize fresh and clean. It’s important to keep your juice or smoothie bar clean and tidy. The most successful bars are neat, orderly and aesthetically pleasing and have a strong focus on fresh. It depends on your individual setup, but it can enhance the visual appeal if you make your fresh fruit and other ingredients visible to customers. But fresh fruit can go bad, and shoppers won’t want your drinks if the area smells funny.
— Charles Showell, commercial sales director at Blendtec in Orem, Utah
Tour, taste, take notes. I’m part of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association, so I posed a lot of questions to other members for advice. During Natural Products Expo West, I spent about half of my time going to juice bars all over Los Angeles, and I also visited many stores in New York City and Boston to see what cool things other retailers were doing. This gave me so many ideas for layout, design and recipes.
Spread the word. Before we opened our juice bar, we prepeared and exhibited our drinks at a lot of fairs and sampled them at gyms. We also distributed fliers and did a lot of social media around it. We opened on our store’s anniversary, and because this was a new part of our business, the chamber of commerce gave us a ribbon-cutting ceremony. We made a ribbon out of vegetables, which got us a lot of publicity.
Tweak as you go. This is all a learning experience, so be flexible in the beginning while you figure out what works. For instance, we tried pre-making some smoothies but found it works better for us to make everything to order. Also listen to what customers want in order to perfect your offerings. We added a smoothie that did not have bananas because of the special requests.
- Marieke Cormier, owner of Roots Natural Foods in Leominster, Massachusetts
Prepared Foods Department - Designer and Consultant
Go organic. Of all your prepared foods programs, juice and smoothie bars are among the easiest to create from all-organic ingredients, giving you something extra to shout about. With a consistent year-round supply of many organic veggies, fruits and juices, it’s easy to come up with tasty and cost effective blends. And because a vast majority of your customers are willing to pay the organic premium for produce, they’ll appreciate the quality bump in prepared foods too.
Create an awesome menu. Develop a menu of great combinations and snappy drink names, rather than just having a list of ingredients. You still need a build-yourown menu of ingredients for the fraction of customers who prefers to design the ideal beverage. But by featuring named drinks, you can create and market signature flavors. For example, Wedge Community Co-op in Minneapolis offers an Emerald Pineapple Smoothie that my taste buds will forever remember.
Create a clear menu. You can concoct the best flavors in the world, but if your menu board lacks eye appeal or is confusing, it can kill your program. If you have nine smoothies and three sizes of each, avoid having to list 27 different prices by structuring your menu items into two or three price categories, plus a few add-ons.
— Allen Seidner, principal at Thought For Food Consulting in Fairfax, California