COPPELL, TEXAS — While many restaurants are scrambling to adjust their service models and edit their menus to cope with the effects of coronavirus, Smoothie King is taking the pandemic in stride.
“Coronavirus has certainly been devastating and unfortunate, and like almost every other business in the food and beverage space, our sales have been impacted,” said Rebecca Miller, chief marketing officer of Smoothie King. “However, Smoothie King’s core business has always been grab-and-go, so the industry-wide transition to carryout and drive-thru hasn’t been as drastic for us. We do have designated seating areas, but we’ve closed those off because of the current conditions, which underlines our carryout and drive-thru ordering options even more. Our guests also have the added convenience of being able to order online or on our Healthy Rewards app, so the impact on how we get the product to them hasn’t changed all too much.”
Coronavirus also has increased consumer interest in health, which Ms. Miller said is a need Smoothie King is ready to meet.
“This new reality has created a greater emphasis on health and wellness." — Rebecca Miller, Smoothie King
“This new reality has created a greater emphasis on health and wellness,” she said. “What’s helping us compared to other concepts out there is that we offer delicious, convenient and healthy meal-replacement options. This allows us to help guests keep up with their healthy and active lifestyles even during this difficult time.”
Ms. Miller recently spoke to Food Business News about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting Smoothie King, particularly its innovation strategy and plans for the future.
Food Business News: How has coronavirus affected Smoothie King’s innovation and rollout process?
Ms. Miller: We’ve definitely had to shift our focus, but we are fortunate that health and wellness is already embedded in our DNA. That’s made it easier for us to pivot on our previous rollout plans and focus on existing menu items and ingredients that underscore guests’ current needs — like our Immune Support Enhancer. It’s packed with vitamin C and can be added to any smoothie on our menu. We’re also offering it to our Healthy Reward members for free for the foreseeable future because we want our guests to know that we support their health and fitness journeys no matter what.
How or will innovation and new menu item launches for you proceed during this time?
Ms. Miller: We will definitely have to keep in mind the current health environment and guest needs. We want to be conscious of what’s going on, and we’re already in the works on possibly launching a new smoothie to respond as best as we can to the current concerns this pandemic is causing. We will also continue to focus on and emphasize specific ingredients — like wild blueberries and organic ginger — that benefit and support the immune system.
Do you plan to develop/offer any new menu items that are a direct response to the coronavirus's impact on restaurants?
Ms. Miller: We’ve discussed developing a new menu item that’ll be appropriate, healthy and helpful given the current reality. Whatever is rolled out, though, will be optimal for drive-thru, carryout and curbside pickup since that’s already a precondition of our smoothie blends.
What has been your most ordered item during this time?
Ms. Miller: The Immune Builder Smoothie and Immune Support Enhancer have been the two most notable menu items ordered over the last couple weeks. The sales for the Immune Builder Smoothie have almost doubled compared to last year, and sales for the Immune Support Enhancer have grown nearly six times more than what they were at this time in 2019.