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Posted Dec 2nd, 2014

I Love Juice Franchise Review: Q&A with Tommy Keet

Finding the ‘total package’ brought this career franchiser on board early

With a long background in starting successful franchise operations, Little Rock entrepreneur Tommy Keet isn’t a pushover when it comes to new concepts. I Love Juice Bar won him over for a variety of reasons. That’s why he’s excited about getting in on the ground floor.

What did you do before deciding to open an I Love Juice Bar?

Tommy Keet

Tommy Keet

Our company name is JTJ Restaurants, and that stands for Jim, Tommy and Jake. We own and operate five Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafes and soon will open a sixth one.

How did you first learn about I Love Juice Bar?

Taziki’s is a close relative to Fresh Hospitality, which is the group working with John and Vui Hunt as they take I Love Juice Bar into franchising. We were contacted by Fresh Hospitality to take a look at this concept while they are getting integrated with the tools and systems that we’re all a part of, and so they wanted to get our thoughts.

Do you juice?

I don’t have enough time on my own to do it, so my brother and his wife bring it to me often. For people like me there is a definite need in our market, and there’s not much competition at all.

What sets I Love Juice Bar apart for customers?

The raw materials. I think if you’d asked me if I juice and we already had one open, my answer would be “absolutely.” I look forward to doing it, and I have since I met the Hunts and spent time in their store. I look around Little Rock and don’t see anything like it — all you can get here is stuff full of sugar and corn syrup. John describes what I Love Juice offers as “real food, real nutrition,” and I think that’s what we’re most excited about.

What sets I Love Juice Bar apart as a franchise investment?

It’s something new, and we wanted to move quickly for just that reason. There will be more like it when people see what it is and how it does. The responsible restaurateur in me says we need to see numbers, but my gut knows that if I don’t do this in Little Rock, somebody else is going to. America is trying to move away from fast foods, and this really is a part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just made in front of you; it’s got local ingredients.

What do you think of the I Love Juice Bar management team?

The Hunts know what they are doing. John’s had multiple businesses, and Vui has a very impressive resume within the food industry. It’s a good combination, and the Fresh Hospitality people will really add a lot with what they bring to the table. That’s why we want to get there during the infancy and work with these exciting people. We were some of the first franchisees with Taziki’s, so we know what it’s like to put our neck out a little bit.

I Love Juice Bar CEO John Hunt, right, helps prepare ingredients at the original location in Brentwood, Tennessee.

I Love Juice Bar CEO John Hunt, right, helps prepare ingredients at the original location in Brentwood, Tennessee.

What do you think of the support you have received so far?

We went out and met this great team. Vui is absolutely “lights out” with food — she’s an incredible chef with an amazing background. John is full of energy and passion, and we love that. They know marketing, and they have passion. A lot of people have those two things, but in today’s society you’ve got to have great tools and systems. Fresh Hospitality brings that in, and so you’ve got talent, passion, marketing and someone who can make sure that all gets brought down to the bottom line. I think we are all a very good match for each other.

What do you think of the marketing plan?

I was very impressed with what John had done with social media and online things like that. But it’s also the little things, like the logo, the bright colors and the easy-to-read menu boards. Everything is very streamlined, and once they get the point-of-sale integration and everything else in place, it will be even better. As I said before, it’s an incredible team.

When do you expect your store to open?

We are opening our sixth Taziki’s soon and want to watch its numbers during October and November, but we’ll be ready after that. This also gives the I Love Juice team and Fresh Hospitality time to finish their integration. By then there will also be a couple of new stores open, and if those numbers are as impressive as the ones we’ve seen, we will really want to get behind that momentum. I think we’ll be looking to move ahead on floor plans and equipment plans so we can be open by or during the first quarter of 2015.

Why are you excited to bring I Love Juice Bar to your location? What is the need or opportunity?

They have great word of mouth, and about a 100 percent rating on Urban Spoon. I’ve never seen that. Plus, the floor plan and the buildout aren’t that complicated.

What do you hope to accomplish — personally and professionally — by opening an I Love Juice Bar?

If we go in, we go in fully committed. I already have the perfect operating partner for us, a guy who’s been our catering person at Taziki’s. He’s a younger guy looking for the right opportunity, and he and John are a lot alike.

Our growth plan will be sales-driven and -centric like everything is, but I think Little Rock and the surrounding area could handle five or six I Love Juice Bar locations. It’s a small footprint, so we think once we find that perfect first location we can grow from there pretty quickly.

Would you recommend I Love Juice Bar to someone thinking about starting a business?

Definitely. The overhead, the actual equipment cost, is not that high. To get your store going you’re not going to spend a lot of money. Once you get a good produce provider, you’ll really start to feel the simplicity of it. Fresh Hospitality will also bring a lot of seamlessness to the table, so you’ll know what your recipes are, how much juice you’re pressing every day, how to do your scheduling … all that, plus the innovation from the Hunts, will really make the franchises work.

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