Restaurant Development & Design

September-October 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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6 4 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 How To Design for Scalability BY AMANDA BALTAZAR, Contributing Editor V isit Tropical Smoothie Café in Tallahassee, Fla., and you'll enter a 600-square-foot restau- rant. But travel up to Colum- bus, Ind., and you'll be in a location measuring 3,000 square feet. That's a significant difference, and the 600-unit chain has restaurants many sizes in between. "It's important to us to have a prototype that's scalable," says Mike Rotondo, CEO of the Destin, Fla.-based chain. "We are opening 10 stores a month and will probably sign 140 to 150 leases this year. It gives us a com- petitive advantage to be able to jump on spaces. As long as it meets our cri- teria from a location standpoint, we can make a Tropical Smoothie Café work." Scalable restaurant prototypes are becoming essential as brands seek to grow nationwide and open quickly in very diverse locations. They have adapt- able interiors, exteriors or both, which means almost no site is off-limits. Tropical Smoothie locations can be as small as 250 square feet, which is typically a nontraditional food court- type location; in other small spaces, the drive-thru can be freestanding, so it doesn't cannibalize store space. For the small locations, what helps make Tropical Smoothie so flexible is that the interior is scalable, too. Seating is fairly expendable as 60 to 70 percent of the chain's traffic comes through the drive-thru and even inside, most customers grab a smoothie and go. The chain also doesn't use a lot of equipment. Each unit usually has two high-output convection ovens, which are stackable and don't take up a lot of room. They also don't require hoods or grease traps, both of which take up space. For smaller locations, the smoothie bar can be minimized. Though the smoothie menu is large, it's made up of a fairly small number of ingredients, so the company can compress the smoothie prep area, Rotondo says. The usual four blenders can be downgraded to three, saving a linear foot of space. There's the option of reducing the menu, too, Rotondo says. "We go with best sellers," he explains. "The thing with smoothies is a lot are modified anyway. You don't need 100 — you need to have the basics; then, people can sub or add things and create their own." Big Is Beautiful In large units, the concept sometimes adds a community table, which is customized by location to fit the space, such as a round table or a narrow, long one. However, says Rotondo, if a loca- tion is too big, "it loses atmosphere. It loses a bit of local connection and some Tropical Smoothie Café can scale from 250 square feet to 3,000 square feet. Photo courtesy of Tropical Smoothie Café

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