SQUEEZING In Some Profit

Hollie Costello Comments
Posted : 09/01/2000

SQUEEZING In Some Profit
Juice Bars Offer Tanning Salons a New Money Maker

by Hollie Costello

Tanning salons looking to squeeze a second money-maker into their salon should consider the juice and smoothie industry. There is a new craze in the beverages market--shots of wheat grass are finding their way into fruit juices, and smoothies are cooling off people looking for a quick, healthy alternative to fast food.

Enjoying the Chill of Success

The juice industry, like many health and wellness markets, is enjoying a surge in today's booming economy. Juice "bars", like the juice carts before them, are popping up at shopping malls, near grocery stores and outside of family fun parks before you can say the words "Razmatazberry-blended, please."

According to industry leaders, the juice industry soared well above the $700 million mark in 1999 and is expected to surpass $1 billion in sales by 2001. What can this mean to indoor tanning salons? It means that a corner of your salon could corner a piece of the market and add a nice bit of revenue in the process.

One of the largest Kikka Juice kiosks available to salons.

"The juice industry has been around since the '60s," says Joe Flood, co-owner of Kikka Juice. Kikka Juice (and Kikka Juice Consulting) is a Bend, Ore.-based juice bar company. Flood, who also owns an indoor tanning salon in Alaska, added a smoothie bar to his salon and has seen the increase in revenue first hand.

According to Flood, juice had a surge of popularity in the mid-`90s and continues to be one of the hottest retail concepts in the country--with more than 2,000 juice and smoothie bars nationwide.

"This industry has the potential to be bigger than video," Flood says. "Now, with the success of Jamba Juice® and other chains, people are starting to realize that smoothies are a healthy alternative to fast food."

Because of this success, salons may want to consider adding a fruit or smoothie cart as an alternative to their regular retail accessories. Starting at 150 square feet, the carts are small, yet profitable, with most paying for themselves within the first three months.

Most smoothie cart or kiosks are free-standing, self-contained units with the equipment found under the counter. Refrigerators or freezers are tucked into the bottom to keep fruit fresh or frozen, while the actual juice machines are placed on top for the customer to see. They also include limited counter space for slicing and sinks for washing fruit and usually come with menus and logos somewhere on the cart.

Juice and smoothie bar consultants say larger salons might consider building a separate juice stand, or investing in one of the larger carts, to make sure clientele is well served.

A new store has customers lined up for a healthy snack.

"We can customize to the salon's needs," says Flood. "Kikka Juice is one of the leaders in modular, state-of-the-art beverage structures--from 100 to 1,200 square feet units. Whether you are serving juice and smoothies or fine coffees, we can turn any empty space into a high-profit area and, done correctly, double a salon's daily volume."

Flood says the continued success and popularity of the juice and smoothie bar industry has attracted new customers interested in the health and wellness benefits associated with juice and smoothies. Knowing that today's world is a busy one, juice bars are popping up in most of the places "errand" businesses are located--strip malls, workout centers and gyms, even near schools. Indoor tanning salons fit into this same category.

"This is a way for businesses to make a profit center from dead space," says Chris Cuvelier, president of Juice and Smoothie Consulting, a San Francisco-based consulting firm. "Even if they are just putting in a smoothie machine, it could mean up to $50,000 more in revenue per year."

Working from figures selling smoothies at $3.50 a piece, Cuvelier says that if a salon sells 40 smoothies a day--and uses a 35 percent cost for goods--they could make up to $50,000 per year. Because the salon already pays rent, electricity and insurance, there is little to no overhead and salons are not losing tanning space because the cart is located in a front lobby or waiting area.

The front counter of Sunberries System.

Cuvelier adds that bringing a counter or kiosk into the salon is minimal work, with most consulting firms offering a complete setup with one of their professionals. Including door-to-door service, with the consulting firm meeting the truck at the salon door, smoothie companies usually stay to help set-up for the first time and provide a day of training, as well as recipes, logos and menus in some cases. However, everything depends on the type of beverage cart a salon owner purchases.

Smoothie bars, according to Cuvelier, are easy to install and maintain and will make back the money it costs to run them, plus profit. Espresso bars, on the other hand, are a huge profit center, but a more difficult and time- consuming product.

Other consultants agree that adding beverages such as juice and coffee adds to the profit margin--but also to the workload. Brandon Guzzo, president of Las Vegas-based SunBerries Systems, says simple smoothie carts are the perfect addition to a busy tanning salon. According to information provided by the SunBerries Systems Corp., some companies, such as his, come complete with pre-packaged, pre-sorted and pre-weighed products, as well as recipes to retain consistency in flavor and size.

"Offering clients a juice while waiting for a bed or blending their favorite smoothie for them to drink after spending 10 minutes in a tanning unit is a great way to get them hooked," says Cuvelier. "And it may even bring them back when they are not tanning."

Guzzo says that one of the tanning salons that placed a Sunberries System in its lobby has increased its summer clientele by 32 percent--and is anticipating a larger winter clientele as well.

"People tan when they think about it or when advertising reminds them to tan," he says. "By having a smoothie bar located in the salon, people think of a smoothie when they are not thinking of tanning--thus, tanning becomes more of an impulse when they stop to pick up a smoothie."

A Drink To Your Health!

While profits are in the minds of salon owners, health and wellness are in the minds of customers. Adding a juice or smoothie center gives an impression of consideration to the tanning salon clientele-- the products are fresh, most are sugar- and fat-free and the health benefits of a glass of juice far outweigh the typical soda or tea they crave after their tanning session.

"It is amazing how much juice can add to the bottom line of a salon," says Flood. "And with people getting older, they are looking for ways to look and stay healthy and young--that includes juice and tanning."

According to figures from the U.S. food industry, one in four Americans will be over the age of 60 by 2005 and more people than ever are getting serious about trying to stave off disease--and old age--through a healthy diet and healthy living. Baby boomers are aging, teen-agers that grew up tanning are becoming successful adults and their children are starting to visit indoor tanning salons earlier--that gives a salon three different demographic profiles to attract with a second business.

In addition, as the economy continues to steam along, everyone has more money to spend on themselves--including vanity items such as tanning and gym memberships, entertainment and--most importantly--good food.

The juice industry has benefited from this surge by offering not only low-fat, 100-percent juice drinks, but also by combining the science of weight loss with the natural taste of fruit to create energy and protein drinks and smoothies.

Adding supplements, vitamins and herbs to the drink by the "shot" gives salon owners an opportunity to add to the sale, while providing people the extra jolt they are looking for to continue their day.

Like Ying and Yang

The order area of Sunberries System.

Meshing the indoor tanning industry and the juice industry is like fitting together two perfect puzzle pieces. When the tanning season slows down in the summertime, the juice and smoothie industry starts to build; and in the winter, the troops of tanners that visit the salon could be just the "pick me up" the juice and smoothie industry needs.

"The key is the juice industry has similar demographics to the indoor tanning industry," says Chris Morrow, president of Juice Bar Solutions, a Millbrac, Calif.-based consulting firm. "The juice bar industry is almost 80-percent women, often between the ages of 15 and 35, which, I believe, is very similar to the tanning industry."

The two industries do complement each other as far as seasons go, and matching demographics could ensure a profit; however, what must a salon give up to get a juice bar in their facility? Not much.

"Many of the tanning salons already have everything a juice bar would need," says Cuvelier. "Beverage carts take up little space and most of its needs are filled by electricity, which is something the tanning salons have an abundance of anyway."

There are differences in each beverage bar. Juice bars are a little more detailed because all products are squeezed fresh. Therefore, there is more work and more waste associated with a juice bar than there is with a smoothie stand. Fruit and produce must be purchased regularly, if not daily, kept fresh and disposed of after use. Juice stands often have a larger refrigerator and need extra equipment such as utensils for cutting fruits and vegetables, counter space and a larger area for the juicer.

Smoothie carts, however, are compact and require little training and even less maintenance. The fruit they use is usually frozen and the "energy boosters" mostly are powders or liquid additives.

Espresso carts add cost and time concerns. They often mean more original cost and, depending on what you chose to offer, more space. Coffee carts that offer flavored coffee have to store the flavors, the coffee and have access to good water and electricity.

Training also is easier for juice and smoothie bars, compared to espresso and cappuccino machines. Juice bar training often can be completed in a day and most consulting firms provide an entire training process for owners and managers to use later. In most cases, only one person is needed to run the beverage cart--salons can decide if they want the person to be separate from the salon employees (which most consulting firms recommend) or a salon employee working two positions.

Drink to Celebrate

In all, adding a juice or smoothie to a salon can boost sales with little to no effort. By utilizing the front lobby as an effective sales center, advertising in the rooms and offering the smell of fresh fruit and the cool effects of frozen drinks to entice customers, salon owners can make quite a nice profit.

"These basically are stand-alone concepts that are joining with established, successful businesses," says Morrow. "There really is no way for an owner to go wrong."

Finding a Favorite

Do you think you could drink a bananaberry-razzape smoothie? How about a shot of wheat grass in your chocolate milk mix? Or maybe some protein with your carrot juice?

The options available for the smoothie and juice industry are endless--though there always are a few favorites. According to consultants from the juice and smoothie industry, fruits beat out vegetables 2-to-1 and fresh-squeezed juices, with exotic flavors such as mango and kiwi are starting to grow in popularity.

As for smoothies, the possibilities are limitless. After all, who wouldn't want to mix their favorite fruits into one drink for a power supply of the six daily recommended servings? As with most fresh-squeezed juice drinks, there is little sugar or fat on the smoothie menu, so those looking for a healthy alternative to burgers and fries can find it in a juice smoothie.

According to Joe Flood, owner of the Kikka Juice Consulting firm in Bend, Ore., the trends are moving toward the addition of energy boosters--such herbs as wheat grass, echinesea or ginseng. In addition, the flavors are very seasonal--with lemons, lime and watermelon selling regularly in the summer, and darker berries such as blueberry and strawberry selling well in the winter.

Looking for a start for your menu? Flood says to stick with the old favorites, such as lemon, orange, straw- berry and raspberry and work other fruits in as "surprise" flavors. Pineapple, banana and blueberry are all very potent tastes and often are asked for by name. However, having a juice firm that creates your menu eliminates the problem of coming up with your own ingenious mixtures.

Other consulting firms say to go with the theme of the salon when deciding on a menu. Decorated from head to toe in leis and hawaiian prints--move to pineapple. More conservative salons with neutral colors should stick to the old favorite--strawberry-banana.

"I don't know why everyone wants it, but strawberry-banana tends to be the most popular drink," says Chris Morrow, president of Juice Bar Solutions in Millbrac, Calif. "People in tanning salons also like the tropical flavors--it completes their image of laying on the beach, soakin' up rays and enjoying the fresh fruit of the island."

The truth is, only your clients will be able to tell you what the perfect drink is. Listen and take notes in the first few months of business and remember to try new things, adding to the menu and subtracting those flavors that seem to move slower. Like any business, knowing your customers' tastes--or taste buds in this case--is the only way to succeed.


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