Freshëns Fresh Food Studio is known for serving delicious and healthy food and smoothies to people on the go. A pioneer in the fast casual space, Freshëns has more than 500 locations, including 300 college campuses.
Among foodservice operators, Freshëns is beloved for its streamlined systems. A licensee can open up a smoothie bar, train staff rapidly, and serve a high-quality product. How does Freshëns keep everything simple and maintain consistently high standards? Joe Sardina, Vice President of Operations, shares some of the company’s strategies.
1. Adapt training to Gen-Z attention spans.
The simplicity of Freshëns’ foodservice operations is “a twin-edged sword,” Sardina observes. Many licensed operators oversee multiple concepts — in an airport food court, for instance, or in a student center. And because Freshëns is so simple, managers sometimes assign their least experienced employees to work there, trusting everything will continue to run smoothly.
So Freshëns makes its procedures and recipes incredibly easy to follow, with abundant visual cues. The six different smoothie bases each are a different color, as are the labels and colors of their lids. Operational signs use icons to help employees who speak English as a second language.
And, Sardina says, the company recognizes that when its young employees “are looking for information, they know how to go get it. They want that information in packets. They want it in bites.” Every recipe card has a QR code that, when scanned by an employee’s smartphone, brings up a short video that shows how to make a particular smoothie or salad dressing. No video is longer than 120 seconds. Not only does this allow employees to answer their own questions, but corporate staff can see which videos are watched the most, identifying opportunities for better training.
2. Maintain multiple layers of quality checks.
Running a licensed Freshëns location is not a hands-off job, the company makes clear. They require that at least one person in management undergoes rigorous, four- to five-day training at the corporate office and spends at least 30 hours per week behind the counter. This ensures all employees uphold corporate standards.
Freshëns also has a team of business consultants who travel 45 weeks out of the year, visiting every location. This team inspects all aspects of restaurant operations: Are food safety protocols being followed? Are guests’ experiences uniformly positive? Is everything spotless? After a thorough review, the location gets a numerical score.
Underperforming locations get increased attention as consultants work to identify what’s going wrong. “We go back in with a positive attitude, and just assume that you’re overwhelmed, you’re having a bad day,” Sardina says. “They love the attention. They love the extra help.” Usually, the solution is increasing managers’ involvement.
3. Focus on ingredient quality.
Food can only be consistent when ingredients are consistent. So how can a company like Freshëns, which uses 1.5 million pounds of whole fruit each year, maintain that consistent high quality? The answer is IQF: individually quick frozen fruit. This has several advantages, Sardina explains. “We’ll buy an entire crop of strawberries, an entire field. That may be 400,000 pounds.” This means the supply chain is easy to trace, and the fruit is picked only when it’s perfectly ripe (unlike grocery store berries, which are picked weeks early and artificially ripened).
IQF fruit also allows for consistent portioning. It holds its shape and quality, instead of being malleable or easily crushed, and so is easy to measure. The result is a system that’s consistent in quality, customer experience and food costs.
4. Keep equipment uniform.
Sardina’s favorite model for operational consistency is Southwest Airlines. “They have one airplane,” he says, the Boeing 737, and that’s a brilliant business decision. All the mechanics know how to fix one plane; pilots know how to fly one plane; and flight attendants know how to ensure passenger safety on one plane.
He takes the same approach to Freshëns’ operations. Vendors often try to sell him new equipment, he says, and licensees ask if they can repurpose equipment they already have. The answer is no. For example, all Freshëns locations use the HBH650 Tempest blender from Hamilton Beach Commercial.
“It creates an opportunity, when you have consistent equipment, for the piece of equipment to fall into the fabric of the system,” Sardina explains. When every operator is using the same blender, operating procedures remain consistent across locations and corporate staff can easily help troubleshoot when needed. “We can get you to the solution faster,” Sardina says. For example, he knows that when a blender (rarely) malfunctions, Hamilton Beach Commercial will send the operator a replacement immediately to avoid down time. That way, he says, everyone can “keep rocking and rolling.”
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