- Tropical Smoothie Cafe added bowls to its permanent menu Wednesday as part of a campaign with Saturday Night Live’s Chloe Fineman, who is serving as the brand’s “Tropic Time Concierge,” the company said in a press release.
- The bowls, which were originally tested in select markets, are now available in all of the chain’s 1,335-plus locations.
- This move marks the first time the chain has added a menu category since it launched quesadillas in 2018, Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s CMO Deborah von Kutzleben wrote in an email to Restaurant Dive.
Bowls could prove to be a key sales driver for the chain, which is rumored to be seeking a $2 billion sale.
Smoothie bowls tend to be heartier than a traditional smoothie and are thicker and topped with berries, nuts or granola. Smoothie King added bowls last April and sold 4.5 million bowls by early November. This menu innovation helped the company achieve record-breaking sales and store traffic, the chain said in November.
Tropical Smoothie’s test of its bowls “exceeded our expectations from both a sales and guest sentiment standpoint,” von Kutzleben said, which gave the chain confidence over a full-scale launch.
“Adding bowls to our menu is an opportunity for us to not only deliver what current and new guests want, but also launch a product that is a perfect fit for our brand with fruit-based, better-for-you and vibrant ingredients that are easy to grab on the go,” von Kutzleben said, adding that the acai bowl category has grown 54% in four years, per Datassential.
To prepare for the systemwide launch, the chain took its time to optimize operations during the test and soft launch, von Kutzleben said. Participating franchisees also provided feedback and real-time insights that management implemented prior to the rollout.
“Our franchisees are excited to offer this new menu category to guests and know the new category provides a competitive edge, embodying our promise to unlock growth potential for franchisees and cater to the ever-evolving tastes of our valued guests,” she said.
While this is a new category launch for the chain, it has added new items to its menu over the last few years. It also offers seasonal smoothies and food items throughout the year, von Kutzleben said.
Outside of its menu development, Tropical Smoothie is aggressively franchising, opening 141 cafes and signing 166 franchise agreements as of Q3 2023. During that quarter, it opened 51 locations and reported positive same-store sales. The chain is also attracting experienced multi-unit operators and signed deals with Jacob Webb, who opened his first two units during the quarter with plans to open another 13 in the Salt Lake City market. Rob Schmidt plans to open a total of 17 cafes in Mississippi.