Banana's Ultimate Juice Bar has been riding on the smoothie bandwagon for more than a decade. Franchising since 1981, parent company RSI Inc. has at least 100 operators co-branding the Banana's smoothie concept with one or more of the three other food concepts RSI provides.
RSI primarily targets the East Coast, where smoothies are seen as more of an impulse buy or a snack item than a destination purchase or a meal alternative. Banana's stores are usually erected in high-foot-traffic areas such as transportation centers and malls, where consumers embrace smoothies more for the convenience factor than the health factor. That's why co-branding is so essential: "In our opinion, you need more than smoothies," explains Steve Beagelman, RSI's vice president of franchise development.
Martin and Maria Mascia, 35 and 33, respectively, bought their co-branded concept in 1996. Intrigued by the surge in smoothie popularity, they bought an existing Everything Yogurt, Salad Café and Banana's franchise at Ocean County Mall in Tom's River, New Jersey, with $150,000 in savings.
The Mascias had sales of $400,000 last year and, at press time, were planning to open a Treat Street concept--RSI's latest development--to sell a variety of impulse snack items in one kiosk. Primarily selling smoothies, the Treat Street kiosk will be set up in another section of the same mall. "There's plenty of foot traffic," says Martin, "so there's definitely room for two."