Liquid Profits of Smoothie, Juice and Coffee Bars

Can a liquid profit center work for you?

“What’s next?” was the question on Forrest Jung’s mind. His Box, CrossFit South Bay in Hermosa Beach, California, seemed to have squeezed dry all its current revenue streams.

So, when the members began asking for smoothies and coffee, Jung answered.

“For us, they would come in, workout and then end up going somewhere else for all that stuff,” he said. “From a financial standpoint, you’re already paying for basically the rent, and you have a built-in clientele. So, from a financial standpoint you might as well put something in there where you can gain additional revenue just from the sales of it.”

South Bay’s very own Bulletproof Cafe has been open for about five months now and offers coffee and espresso drinks, smoothies and prepackaged snacks. Jung noted when they moved to their new 11,000-square-foot location, he planned for a flow of the space that would culminate at one spot: the juice bar and retail area.

However, he has yet to consider it successful and pointed out that one has to operate it like its own business. “What we’ve seen was you really have to dedicate yourself to it,” said Jung. “You can’t just put it up and expect people to buy stuff. You have to constantly change menus. You have to promote it. You have to send emails out to your members. You have to tell the Coaches to tell the members during class that it’s available.”

Desert Forge CrossFit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, used to have a juice bar. But, managing it while running the Box with his partner was not ideal, said Tommy Truex, a co-owner. Not only was it time consuming, but Truex brought up several questions anyone looking to put in a juice bar should ask: Will you buy fresh or frozen fruit? Who’s going to juice it when you’re running a class? What about training people to run the bar? For the moment, the juice bar sits on the back burner at Desert Forge. Instead, Truex said they have set up a coffee bar and lounge, serving Caveman Coffee for free. “People just hang out in my gym all day long,” said Truex. “They just don’t leave. So, I figured: might as well have something for them to sip on.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Mary Catherine Alexander, head Coach and program fitness director at CrossFit Franklin in Franklin, Massachusetts, said its smoothie bar has been extremely successful. The bar sits with access to both CrossFit Franklin and the fitness club next door, Team Fitness Franklin. For Alexander, it’s not the revenue part that has her fired up about offering smoothies however – it’s the nutritional benefit.

“When [members are] in there, we have a responsibility to make sure that we warm them up, we [run them through] mobility, we work them out, and then we make sure that their body is refueled and ready to go,” said Alexander. “You gain so much within the Box that we’ve got to make sure that we put [on] the finishing touch. When they leave … we refuel their body and send them out to face the day so it doesn’t knock them down.”

At CrossFit Franklin they offer smoothies – from fruit to chocolate – and protein shakes. A huge hit is Progenex, said Alexander, who yet again pointed out the opportunity to replenish an athlete’s body. “[Our owners] thought of, how do we keep our athletes healthy and as they’re leaving, set the day straight, or the evening straight?” she said.

Although people can donate a couple bucks for the coffee, Truex said his lounge is mostly a membership benefit. The best thing you can do though is ask your members what they want. “Don’t just come up with your own great idea and think it’s the best idea possible and don’t ask your clients, because when it comes down to it, it’s all about taking care of your community, your clients,” said Truex. “If you’re not doing that, you’re not going to win.”

Jung also said a poll or survey of what your membership wants is the way to go. But, probably the most important factor is making sure you have your CrossFit side of operations down pat. “Get that stuff down first and then you can add all the extras, because each extra you have is like a new job,” said Jung.

Having your smoothie bar not only front and center, but also with a menu that has a little something for every athlete – Paleo, vegan, etc. – is essential to its success, said Alexander.

However, the secret ingredient for CrossFit Franklin’s smoothie bar isn’t edible. It’s the personal touch. Alexander said when an athlete comes in, they know their name, their dog’s name and what smoothie they want. Having it ready for the member when he or she walks in or is done showering shows that they are important and that they matter. “If you care and you love what you do, it feels good,” she said. “We make sure we get it right.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.