Experienced franchisee Andrew Howell is the President of Amazing Brandz, a food concepts company which includes Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Another Broken Egg. Andrew boasts a lengthy career in the restaurant and hospitality industry and is skilled in customer service, food safety, leadership, and negotiation. Before starting his career, Andrew earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He’s currently enrolled in the University of Central Florida MBA program.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- The story behind Amazing Brandz
- Why should you visit a Tropical Smoothie Cafe?
- How Andrew Howell became a franchisee and the lessons he’s learned
- The importance of trusting and hiring the right people as a franchise owner
- How to figure out if a franchise is a good fit for you
- Andrew talks about his new franchise Another Broken Egg
- Finding the perfect locations for your franchises
- How did the pandemic affect Tropical Smoothie operations?
In this episode…
While franchises allow for company expansion, it’s also a great way for aspiring entrepreneurs to become business owners. If this is a venture you’ve considered, be sure to do your homework. So, what does it take to be a successful franchisee?
Entrepreneur and serial franchisee Andrew Howell explains there are many factors to consider. If you want to get rich quickly, owning a franchise may not be for you. To be a successful franchise owner, be prepared to get your hands dirty and put in late hours. In the end, the sacrifice and commitment pay off. But where does one start when considering buying into a franchise?
In this episode of the SpotOn Series, join host Chad Franzen of Rise25 as he sits down with Andrew Howell, President of Amazing Brandz. The two discuss Andrew’s concepts, including Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Another Broken Egg. Additionally, he talks about the lessons he’s learned as a franchisee, how to decide if a franchise is a correct fit for you, and the deciding factors that go into franchise locations.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Andrew Howell on LinkedIn
- Amazing Brandz
- Tropical Smoothie Cafe
- Another Broken Egg
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
Sponsor for this episode
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Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25 Media. We feature top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world.
Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here, cohost for this show where we feature top restauranteurs, investors, and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn has the best-in-class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant, where they combined marketing, software, and payments all in one. They serve everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spoton.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients referral partners have thought leader in your space, there is no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to Rise25Media.com or email us at Support@Rise25Media.com Andrew Howell lives in Winter Garden, Florida where he operates 18 Tropical Smoothie Cafes with five in development and six licenses more to open. He’s currently the franchisee of the year for a Tropical Smoothie Cafe and is working toward his executive MBA from the University of Central Florida. He’s passionate about travel and culture and is working to see the seven wonders of the world. Andrew, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?
Andrew Howell 1:29
Good morning. How are you?
Chad Franzen 1:31
Good. Thanks. Hey, so you’re president of a group of concept called Amazing Brandz. B R A N D Z. Kind of tell me what that is and how it came together.
Andrew Howell 1:40
So kind of a semi long story here. So I had opened up a Tropical Smoothie in Orlando and then my father had opened up stores down in Fort Myers and as we were both growing we decided to merge we created Amazing Brands and have since grown from there. So we’re duo on it.
Chad Franzen 2:00
Okay, great. So tell me a little bit about but Tropical Smoothie Cafe. What can a customer kind of expect when you go there?
Andrew Howell 2:08
So it’s smoothies flatbreads, wraps sandwiches, we now have case studies on the menu. So it’s a it’s a healthy option. We look for the we call them healthy hopefuls the people that are trying to be healthier that want to get away from your burgers and french fries and want to eat better and feel healthier and live live a better life. And it’s good to know that we’re selling products that make people overall live better.
Chad Franzen 2:33
Sure, sure. You opened your first one, I believe in October of 2012. What have you been doing up to that point?
Andrew Howell 2:42
sign the contracts in October points, but we didn’t get open until July of 2013 gotcha gotcha process with leasing and everything.
Chad Franzen 2:49
Sure What did you What do you been doing up to that point prior to opening
Andrew Howell 2:52
so prior to that I worked for some logistics with Disney. I worked for Hilton for a little bit. I was with Disney for a little while in operations right after college. So a couple years.
Chad Franzen 3:05
What led you to kind of becoming a franchisee then?
Andrew Howell 3:08
Well, my dad was in franchising for since I was a child so he’s going 38 something years in franchising obviously seeing that I wanted to kind of follow his footsteps we went to a franchise show figured out what was a brand that fit me and at the time and troubles me The cafe was around 350 units maybe 400 with an AU fee of around 700,000 We’re currently over probably break 1100 units nationally. I know give or take them a week or so in our AUC is well over a million dollars now.
Chad Franzen 3:43
Had you had so you said your your father was a franchisee had you had experience in that type of a store or restaurant
Andrew Howell 3:50
up to the point where he was a franchisee for Meineke car care. Okay, he since left that you didn’t think that that was the the industry for me, which is right. It’s fair restaurants were worked well for what I enjoy and what I do. And if you’ve worked out that way. So
Chad Franzen 4:06
you say you didn’t have any experience with the restaurant industry prior? No, I did not know. So what are the early days like when you first opened your first Oh man. So
Andrew Howell 4:15
when we first opened I was I was there every single day, open the clothes for months, several of those months, I didn’t take a paycheck because salesmen weren’t there yet. Then after a while I found some shift leaders and I would still open and be there until five or 6pm. And probably the first nine months, there was not a day I wasn’t there. And then as we you know, you establish management and you grow but that’s why you know, you live in the business you understand all the ins and outs and that those those moments still carry today even as I obviously work from home now. And I can work in my district managers working with managers and I’ve been there so I know what it’s like to do an open and close And I’ve I’ve washed dishes for an hour, I’ve done all of those different things. So it’s been a little bit since then. But I still understand the feeling.
Chad Franzen 5:07
Yeah. What are some things that you kind of you kind of learned during your early days as a franchisee? Maybe some things you didn’t know that you didn’t know?
Andrew Howell 5:16
That’s that’s tough. Well, labor controls is one that’s we always look at labor control and cost of goods is our two largest metrics. And if you control those, you can pretty much control your bottom line, because everything else is going to be almost everything else cured by raising sales. So your rent percentage or electrical, all of that stuff is relatively fixed. Yes, electrical semi varies, but you know, it’s, it’s a small number. All of that stuff will just go down as a percentage of your sales as a percentage of your expenses, because your sales are going up food and labor control. I’ve seen franchisees that have million dollar cafes that don’t have those under control, and they’re struggling to budget because it’s more than half of your entire expense. And if that’s not covered, then you’re not paid. So yeah, it’s, that’s a big one. I think, realizing, too, that. And I can kind of touch on this later, as we talk about going through COVID and everything but Pavie, will Warren take care of her people, like obviously, people, everyone says, Take care of your people. But what people don’t realize is the quantitative amount that adds up when you have to rehire and retrain. So if it costs like most were like, Oh, well, I’m not going to pay over market, right? Well, if you pay $1,500, extra year over market rate, then you’re not gonna have to replace that person, which is going to cost you $5,000 per replacement, or more. So it’s just remembering that the more you focus on taking care of your people, making sure your people are happy and paid and doing well and listening and not listening to you, you’re listening to them, you’ll be successful.
Chad Franzen 6:56
So you kind of learned you kind of learned those things. Those were valuable for you. When did you when did you know that it was time to add beyond that one store?
Andrew Howell 7:08
That’s It’s tough. It’s not like an easy number to quantify. So when I had the one, we were waiting for the right opportunity. And we were looking looking at locations kind of playing with it, there was a franchisee in the market who, without going in all the details was was ready to get out. And we were able to work with that. So we jumped from one to six. And then we sold off two of them. So then we were at five stores. And then relocated once were four stores for a while and five pretty quickly in the Orlando area. And during this time, my father was growing in Fort Myers. So we were kind of separately building our different stores and locations. And then as we merged in 2018, late 2018. It kind of it worked. It worked out well. And obviously we worked with each other’s organizations while we were running them, primarily separately. It wasn’t, it wasn’t like I never went down to Fort Myers. He never came up for Orlando, we were still intermingled. But it was just one of those moments where like, why are we why are we running two different payrolls and doing all these things double? Why don’t we just combine it all and went from there. And then amazing brands developed from a corporate restructure that was worked out quite well.
Chad Franzen 8:20
So So you, you know you, you learned a lot, opening your first story, did all kinds of things worked, worked a lot of sacrifice pay? And then you went from one to six? What are some things that maybe you learned in that experience growing going forward?
Andrew Howell 8:34
Yeah, you have to, I guess, one, you have to have people you trust, because at one store, if somebody didn’t show up, or someone called out or I lost a key person, I could go in and do it. Dollar stones, were down a person aren’t gonna run in there. No big deal. When you’re more than that that’s not an option, I have two people call out I obviously physically can’t be in two places at one time. So you have to learn to trust people, and you have to learn to hiring becomes even more important as you have to have people that are more reliable and more trustworthy, that are going to take care of your business, like I take care of my business. And you have to just get the right people and as you get the right people. And also, I’m not saying you don’t lower your standards, obviously, the bar is still very high. But you have to understand that some people are going to do things a little different than I might and it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. It’s just different. So they were like, Hey, I’m gonna do it this way. And I might be thinking in my head. That’s not how I would have done it, but works. So great. Maybe next time we’ll try that way. Again. It’s just understanding that you have to let go a little bit and you have to allow for
Chad Franzen 9:41
trust. Sure. So now so now you’re you’re operating 18 with more to come. Yes. What’s kind of the key to consistency and success among all of those locations? You know, maybe to keep the brand up to the stage of that. So
Andrew Howell 9:55
I communicate regularly daily with my district managers. So I have Three district managers that are in each of the respective markets Orlando, Sarasota, Fort Myers, and they run their cafes. They go in we we go over details what’s going on, like yesterday had a really good conversation with my district manager from Sarasota. Let’s do a rundown of the stores. This is what we’re seeing this is we’re experiencing the stores really trending up, you know, what’s, what’s going on that’s causing it. We just go through and work through everything. And sometimes they’ll say, this is this is a problem, what would you do? Sometimes it’s, Hey, this is what I’m doing. What do you think sometimes it’s, you know, Hey, it’s your market. I trust your decision. Go for it, and then they’ll take care of it. So it’s a matter of just keeping that open communication and not taking your eye off the ball.
Chad Franzen 10:42
You know, you talked about how you worked with your dad to decide what kind of franchise might be a good fit for you. What do you think made Tropical Smoothie Cafe a good fit for you?
Andrew Howell 10:52
So I think it goes to in the beginning, we looked at where would you not be held captive by your employees. And so with Meineke, obviously, I’m not a ASE certified mechanic. If mechanic doesn’t show up. I’m not changing the brakes. I can do some, you know, some normal car maintenance. But I’m not, you know, I’m not doing some of the more complex stuff. So in that case, they don’t show up. You don’t open where with trouble, Susie, your guy doesn’t show up supposed to be on the food line. Well, guess I’m on the third line today. And I’ll stay late and do payroll later.
Chad Franzen 11:27
Do you think that having that attitude like, Okay, if the employee doesn’t show up, maybe it’s a it could even I don’t know, it could be like a high school kid who doesn’t show up. But then you as the owner show up and you do it? Do you think that? You know, it’s kind of out of necessity? Maybe from your standpoint, but do you think that that kind of sets a good example maybe for the the employees were there?
Andrew Howell 11:47
Oh, absolutely it does. It shows that you’re just as invested in it as them and even today. So sometimes I walked into a store, I was just doing a pop and just say hey, I’m in you know, I’m in Sarasota. I was checking on the store building wanted to say hi, so everything’s going. And there were two soccer teams game got canceled. They all came in. There’s we’re staffed for a normal days, there’s four people there. And there’s 60 customers in the lobby. And I’m like, okay, hold on. I, the district manager was already on the way I threw on the gloves jumped on. I was like, Where do you want me to help out and I telephoned smoothies and took care of it. So it helps that you can dive in and they show that you’re not. I would never walk in and be like, Oh, I’m not doing this, they’re just understaffed. It’s just not how it’s done, you get you have to be able to get your hands dirty a little bit.
Chad Franzen 12:32
Sure. So you’ve added another brand, I believe to your portfolio outside of Tropical Smoothie Cafes, or you’re in the process of doing that. Yeah, can you tell me about that?
Andrew Howell 12:42
So Another Broken Egg, it’s a brunch concepts. It does have a full bar opens at seven and closes at 2pm, which is kind of a nice, nice little perk there. We’re still very infantile. on that stage. We’ve, we have the license assigned, we’re looking for a spot, it’s just for our first spot for the brand. We don’t want to be We can’t miss we got to make sure our first location is you know, absolutely the best spot in the county. And that’s what we’re doing. So don’t really have as much time it’s a great brand. But we just don’t have anything opened yet. So it’s good a good venture to move to
Chad Franzen 13:14
When you’re when you’re looking for the right spot. What kind of goes into that thought process.
Andrew Howell 13:19
So when we’re looking for spots for trouble smoothie, we look at proximity to colleges, high schools, gyms, parks, obviously, your businesses, medical facilities, hospitals, everything that brings in walking traffic, people that typically have a healthier lifestyle. So people that are you know, we have one store that’s right behind the gym, they leave the gym, they come straight to us, near schools, you’ll get schools that kids just walk over after practice after school. The writer writes, pick up smoothies, it’s knowing where your customers are and trying to get as close to him as you can, which the benefit of that is we’ve have some stores that I would say are right off of that main road. So it’s not the the store you see driving on the highway, you’re like, oh, wow, that’s a great spot. Well, there’s a premium for that spot. We know that. But we know that if we can be just touch off of it. We can save a ton on our rent, and you really don’t lose any traction. Because we are not a niche brand. But we have we have a very specific customer base that finds us essentially. So we don’t need to have you know, the big sign off the side of the interstate because just trying to grab any money that goes by because that’s not our typical.
Chad Franzen 14:36
What went into the decision to expand beyond the Tropical Smoothies.
Andrew Howell 14:40
Well, just looking for other opportunities, something to diversify a little bit. Obviously we’re good with restaurants. So sticking with restaurants, I think full you know full service could be exciting and new. Obviously. alcohol sales are one it’s fun, and you get I mean the profitability on alcohol I think have to everyone kind of knows that there, it’s there, but you don’t have the same risk levels of, say a bar where you’re up until two in the morning. I don’t think that people are causing issues at noon for brunch.
Chad Franzen 15:12
Right, right. What is it about the this kind of, you know, we’ll Tropical Smoothies is a restaurant and then moving more into you know, full service restaurants. What is it about that industry that’s so attractive to you?
Andrew Howell 15:24
Well, it’s it’s not necessarily simple, but it’s not. It’s not really it’s Yeah, I guess it’s a more simple industry. It’s, there’s complexities to it, but overall, I mean, foods food simple, you want quality food served quickly. Friendly. I mean, it’s the overall how to create a satisfied customer isn’t rocket science, you know, like kinda like cars, there’s there’s a lot of factors to automotive and all of that with restaurants, you good for us healthy, good, healthy, quick service, smiling faces and you’ve got a happy customer.
Chad Franzen 16:03
Great, great. Hey, so one more question for you. But first, tell me how people can find out more information about your Amazing Brandz.
Andrew Howell 16:11
So we do have a website probably need to update it. Now. It’s been very a little bit I monitored kind of, but obviously with everything was Tropical Smoothie, it’s it’s almost irrelevant to the website, we are a franchise so obviously the all of that details, Amazing Brandz, our locations are listed on there. But as a franchise, all the true information is going to be on the actual franchisor website.
Chad Franzen 16:33
Okay, sounds good. Final question. When you go to Tropical Smoothie Cafe as a customer, what’s kind of your item of choice.
Andrew Howell 16:41
So I always do an island green or detox island green. And I usually add like B12 or something into it just it’s a good healthy smoothie, get my vegetables in. And then food wise, my managers will say I always get a quesadilla, but my favorite is actually probably the fall chicken flatbread.
Chad Franzen 16:59
Okay, sounds good. Oh, you know, I had one more question how did? How did COVID impact you and the operations. So it’s
Andrew Howell 17:07
interesting because obviously COVID shut down a lot of brands, but with Tropical Smoothie, we’re already 75 80% to go anyway. And we have drive throughs. So when dining rooms were closed, didn’t really change much. So we were able to keep keep going, we’d obviously had our sales graph look like this. So during that major dip, you know, we talked to our managers and we said we promise we’ll take care of you. But we’re gonna have to increase your hours a little bit until we kind of started trending back up 90% of our managers worked extra hours, put it in and then those that really stepped up, we we bonus them out. Once sales turned back around, we gave up to two weeks pay just thanks for for stepping up when we needed you. And we we really have thrived through it. Because I think it introduced a lot of people to the brand. Because you know, people that were going to other sit down restaurants wasn’t an option. So they tried us out and we don’t have a good product. So they stayed.
Chad Franzen 18:07
you know, having to add extra hours is different than most what most restaurants experienced, had to drastically slash hours. So I guess that was probably a good thing, too.
Andrew Howell 18:16
So, we did have depending on the market, different stores behave differently. So there was it was a reduction of hourly staff temporarily and this by this I mean only five weeks. So it’s not like a long standing process about five weeks random cut a lot of hourly staff and our salaried staff kind of made up those those hours a little bit to fill that in. And that’s what we did. But that was even even that time period was only four weeks. And at that point, we were scrambling and doing everything we could to hold cash and still paid all our bills. We had a few landlords give us some renovate and then others were we did not go 30 days passed on any rents that we had. We did wait until they asked to pay it just because we wanted to hold cash. We didn’t know how long it was gonna last and if we came out stronger.
Chad Franzen 19:03
Okay. Hey, Andrew. Thanks. So thanks so much for your time today. It’s been great to talk to appreciate it.
Andrew Howell 19:08
Chad Franzen 19:08
All right. Thank you. So long, everybody.
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