Robeks executive visits put personal touch on franchisee relationship
President and CFO David Rawnsley crosses the country to meet franchisees face-to-face and help the company be an even more effective partner
Robeks President and CFO David Rawnsley understands the need for franchisees to get some face time with corporate because he’s still a franchisee himself, owning stores in Burbank and Sherman Oaks, CA. Rawnsley has spent plenty of time traveling to Robeks smoothie franchises across the country, including locations in Florida, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Central and Southern California and Philadelphia. He recently sat down with us to discuss what he learned in his travels and how he and the rest of the Robeks executive team plan to become even more effective teammates for franchisees.
Why do you think it’s important for corporate team members to have face time with the franchise owners?
It’s just good to get out and visit the stores. We get a lot of great insight in the stores into both of our customers. What I mean by both of our customers is our retail customers purchasing smoothies, bowls and juices as well as the franchisee themselves. Clearly, our franchisee relationship is more complex in that they’re a stakeholder and a partner in our brand. It’s helpful to see them in their stores, how they react to things, suggestions they have for improvement, trends they’re noticing. I’m just a firm believer that it’s important to get out and visit the field.
What did you notice most about working with the franchisees?
I was very impressed with how engaged our franchisees are with their business and the pride they take in our product. The amount of conviction they have about the quality of our product was impressive. They are fantastic operators and tremendous brand ambassadors.
How has being a franchisee yourself informed the way you approach your role as company president?
What I’ve learned is that our leadership team has to remain focused and never lose sight of the fact that the franchisee and the customer experience lives within the four walls of the stores, not in emails or PowerPoint presentations and webinars. The foundations for our decisions have to be based on our observations and experiences inside the stores themselves, along with feedback from the franchisees who are on the front line.
How do you think the store design impacts the guest experience?
When you walk into a store, the overall look and feel really denotes a sense of quality, which is consistent with the quality of our smoothies, bowls and juices. Whereas our older stores had a more playful atmosphere to them, the atmosphere now is a little more serious and healthful. One of the things we did is we moved the juicing station to be front and center, so the customers can see their juices prepared and the fresh ingredients that go in them. Now our guests come in knowing that we use only the best ingredients because the preparation is in front of them and the ingredients are on display. They can actually see their juices made.
What do franchisees like most about owning a Robeks store?
I would say that, in general, it is their passion for the products and their interaction with our guests. They deliver something that’s healthy and at a price point that your average guest can afford, and they take a great deal of pride in knowing that they’re making a contribution to a better lifestyle.
I’ve also come across a few who really enjoy the mentoring that they give to their team members. As you might imagine, a number of the team members in our stores are younger and oftentimes Robeks is their first job. They actually develop and learn responsibility and all the other things that come with a first job. There are a number of franchisees who really enjoy the mentoring aspect of being their first employer and seeing those young kids grow and develop while under their employment.
What do guests enjoy most about Robeks?
Our guests come to us because we have the best product, in my opinion — and, of course, I’m biased. For me they validate that, they’re enthusiastic.
There’s a real sense of fulfillment when they leave the store because they’re getting something that tastes great, something they look forward to getting and something that’s healthy for them. You never leave our store or consume one of our products and have a feeling of regret like you might after getting a double cheeseburger or having extra french fries. Everything on the menu is healthy for you, so you can come in, enjoy it and be happy about what you’re putting into your body.
What’s the most important thing you’ve taken away from the visits?
When you’re in a store with the franchisee and you’re face-to-face, it gives them a very intimate one-on-one chance to engage with us and share their challenges and suggestions and observations. I believe this reinforces the partnership and relationship between franchisor and franchisee. At a point in time where texting and emails and abbreviated sentences are the norm, there really is no substitute for rubbing elbows, because the exchange seems to feature more of a connection. When you send an email and you get a reply, you can’t read facial expressions, you can’t see emotions. I think that the messages get conveyed in a much more powerful way when you’re speaking with someone face-to-face as opposed to electronically or even on the phone, to be honest with you. It demonstrates to them just really how important they are to us. It’s important they know that, and there’s no better way, I think, than to visit them personally.
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