Franchisee interview: Q&A with Mark Van Kirk of McLean, Virginia

Robeks Fresh Juices & Smoothies talks to franchisee in Northern Virginia

Mark Van Kirk owns a brand new Robeks smoothie franchise in McLean, Virginia.

Northern Virginia now has another healthy eating option thanks to the opening of a Robeks Fresh Juices & Smoothies franchise in McLean, Virginia. Mark Van Kirk, who is also still the acting President of Harrison Ritchie Company, a private oil and gas company, said he decided to open the Robeks at 6661-A Old Dominion Drive because he was saw a need for more healthy eating options in his hometown.

Mark chatted recently about how he decided to become a Robeks franchisee.

How did you find out about Robeks?

I first had smoothies and juices in California, and I became a fan because of the ability to get great nutrition even when you’re really busy and only have 2-3 minutes to grab a meal. I saw that it was a good business opportunity. In my research, there were two types of competitors. There were some independents, what are referred to as “mom and pop” type of operations, and then there were a few franchise type operations. There was no question that Robeks was the clear leader.

What do you like about Robeks?

I’m a pretty meticulous individual, and I could see that they were also very meticulous. Everything they did demonstrated an absolute commitment to quality and to consistency of product, and that’s what consumers rightfully demand. I thought there was absolutely great value between the price and the product, and I liked all aspects of the Robeks operations.
Inside a new Robeks store.

Are you a fan of juicing?

All of us are so busy, and we don’t have time to have all the fruits and vegetables that we should. Juicing is an incredibly quick way of getting the nutritional value you need. I know that you want to try to relax and enjoy things in life, but you just don’t get that luxury sometimes and you have to grab a meal as fast as you can. When someone gets a Sweet Green with all the kale and carrots or an Evergreen with all the cucumbers and the celery, the juices that come from these fruits and vegetables clearly provide a tremendous amount of nutritional value. It can also be made relatively quickly — a juice or smoothie is ready in two or three minutes. It makes it convenient to be healthy.

A lot of people have never tried a wheatgrass shot before visiting a Robeks. What do you think?

Well, I think that it’s a hidden gem. People just don’t know yet about the incredible value of wheatgrass. You’re getting the nutritional equivalent of 2+ pounds of greens, which is really unbelievable. I mean, that’s a massive amount on a daily basis. It’s almost like a bushel of kale or spinach. And you get all that in two ounces.

How often are you at your Robeks?

Daily. I have an interest in making sure that the store is in perfect operation. I have an incredible general manager and a great staff that run the store very effectively, but it’s important that I go by every day, at various times during the day. That’s when I get my wheatgrass, as well.

How hands-on are you in the day-to-day operation of your Robeks?

I have a great general manager, and anything that’s going to be successful, it’s all about the team that you build around the business. I think we have a very good team, and my personal involvement is that I monitor everything electronically. I get to see who checks in, when they check in. I get to see all the inventory when it comes in, and what’s used. I have security cameras that operate remotely, so I have visualization of the complete store at all times, if I need it. Even though I physically might not be there, I have the ability to monitor exactly what’s happening. I get to see exactly how clean the store is, what needs to be done, whether everybody’s following the schedules and the protocols. Are we in the right uniforms? Are we welcoming the guests the right way? Technology allows me to be there virtually anytime I need to be, and I check in regularly to make sure everything is going well. That’s important for quality and consistency.

How would you compare Robeks to other places where you’ve had a smoothie?

We’re known for providing a premium product, one that’s not only tasty but nutritious as well. The more people know about smoothies and juices, the better. There are a lot of good, independent juicing operations out there. In making my decision, the critical things for me were consistency, quality, cleanliness, and operations. And so, for me, Robeks was the clear choice and the clear winner.

A Robeks fresh juices and smoothies franchise offers healthy alternatives to fast food for people on the go.

I know that health and fitness are just as important to people in Northern Virginia as they are to people in California. Can you characterize how Robeks fits into your community?

People are very, very conscientious of health and fitness. From a strategic perspective, I think that juicing and smoothies are in their infancy in certain markets. I think you could say they are mature in certain California markets, because it’s just so prevalent, but I think juicing and smoothies are still embryonic here in the Washington metropolitan area and here in McLean. There is good knowledge, but it’s getting better. And we’re glad to be supplementing the McLean community and the Virginia community with a healthy product. It’s a good place to be. The McLean community is a very well-educated community, and that’s reflective of the individuals that typically go into Robeks. They know the value of good health, and they enjoy juicing and smoothies.

Mark, is there anything else you would like people to know about your business?

I’m just glad to be part of it. You should watch Robeks. It’s growing. It has really strong leadership at the corporate level. The franchisees are very committed to the product, and everybody has the same absolute commitment to the quality and consistency. We’re looking forward to the months and years ahead.

Learn more about Robeks

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