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From owning successful gyms to a successful superfood bar, the Acai Brothers, Ben and Sam, took on the hospitality and franchising world with no experience, to quickly becoming one of the world's fastest growing hospitality brands and the leading experts in Acai, one bowl at a time.
1. Obviously both very creative and innovative, As owners, how often do you guys sit down to review financial performance or is that role outsourced?
These days with employees coming on board and a larger company expense list, the financial performance of HQ is something we definitely sit down regularly and assess. This along with the financial performance of stores is reviewed in depth with our bookkeepers and accountants monthly (PNL’s, Balance sheets etc.), with a generalised analysis on figures undertaken more regularly ie. weekly to fortnightly during our strategic planning catch up’s and reporting sessions.
2. There has been a lot of negative press around franchises lately. It’s clear long term franchisor success is heavily dependent on franchisee profitability, how do you first qualify good quality franchisees and then support them to sustain long term growth in the network?
Two things, intense financial and asset based due diligence program, and judge of character. The first is simple but timely, this process from start to finish can take a few months and a lot of supporting data. The second is that special ingredient that is determined through constant relationship building; catch up’s and phone calls. Our entire process from enquiry to signing a franchise agreement is usually as long as 6months. We know that you can never get a 100% strike rate, and there will always be franchisees that you put your faith and trust in and don’t deliver, but again that’s franchising and we try to put boundaries and barriers in to mitigate these instances as best we can.
In terms of long term growth, it’s all about constant love and support. Our aim at Acai Brothers for this year in particular is to offer our franchisee’s TOO MUCH support. We have recently hired a National Support Manager, along with a Community and Task Force Manager to build out our support team. This will soon include State Mangers along with a in office team in HQ dedicated to bettering all aspects of the franchisee’s business. Finally, keeping our family of franchisees small. The aim currently is only 70 stores Nationally, with a lot of these being occupied by multi-site owners. We want to help our current owners to grow, both their wealth and their business management skills.
3. What’s the end goal or the exit plan/ number?
Currently, there is no exit plan in Australia. The number of stores we see this market getting too is 70, possibly 80, and from there it’s all about continued brand awareness, innovation and customer service that will see our continued success. Outside of that, our goal is to head globally, primarily the US, with other flagship stores based in the UK, UAE, and Asia. We can see Acai Brothers having the ability of one day potentially being a 300 store franchise, however, our goal is to grow that side slower, and ensure we have established the right foundations in Aus before expanding globally.
4. What menu development did you undertake before launching your first store?
Before launching our first menu we enlisted the help of a recommended friend of a friend who was an experienced raw food chef. She sat with us, taught us the basics of raw food, educated us on ingredients, showed us how to use the equipment and what flavour profiles customers want. She then designed our very first menu and helped train our staff prior to the opening of our very first store in Wellington point.
5. It sounds as though things were far from perfect in terms of systems and processes at the beginning. For those starting out, what advise would you give to feel the fear and do it anyway? How did you not get paralysed by the snowball that was happening before you?
Look to be honest, every entrepreneur has to have that aspect of naivety, because if you didn’t there’s no way any sane person would ever throw themselves into the position we see ourselves in when starting a business. For us, it was always about never giving yourself that Plan B, as soon as you lay out for yourself a bunch of alternate plans for ‘WHAT TO DO IF THIS DOESN’T WORK’ then you’ve already failed. Also, surrounding yourself with people that build you up, are positive and aren’t out to make you second guess what you’re attempting. A solid support network is key. Finally, I think that you need to have that un-denying belief in yourself and your abilities that you will make this work. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just a lot of people are too scared to stick out the dark times to make it through to the sunshine.
6. If you could do one thing differently – what would it be?
I’ll give you two things:
1. Never grant franchises to family or friends. Keep them out of business guys and girls, personally life and business are two very different things and the lines can never be blurred.
2. Hire key team members in HQ a little sooner. Obviously this all comes down to revenue, however, solid team members in particular roles earlier probably could of saved us some of the headaches we had to experience on our journey.
7. Where and how have you found your new staff members?
Currently we have recruited staff through two different avenues. The first, funnily enough has been people we have just met along the way, or introduced to us through friends or business colleagues/acquaintances. Second, we have gone out and actively head hunted them through different avenues such as LinkedIn or recommendations by other company’s we have worked with.