With multiple executives personally invested through locations of their own, SoBol owners are ensured franchisee-focused systems.
In the ever-growing health-focused fast-casual restaurant space, SoBol has carved out a promising niche for itself. Since its founding in 2014, the acai bowl franchise concept has experienced steady growth as a result of its corporate team’s immediate understanding of how important development through corporate-owned stores is to the strength and longevity of a brand.
With SoBol leadership involved in the everyday workings of the franchise at the store level, the brand creates the opportunity for an inside look at the effectiveness of processes otherwise unattainable from elsewhere in the business. The insight gained from this hands-on involvement helps the brand have better conversations to arrive at mutually beneficial efficiencies, positively impacting franchisee relations and adding value to every area of the SoBol franchise system.
“In my experience, businesses often get too comfortable with their marketing, operations and products and become stale,” said SoBol co-founder Jim Kalomiris. “It is so important to constantly evaluate your business and find areas of improvement, especially with the marketing and technology tools that exist today. From a physical standpoint, you need to be inside stores in order to see where you can improve and keep your business feeling fresh and new.”
In addition to overseeing the overall operation of the corporate team and franchise locations, Kalomiris co-owns all of the brand’s corporate locations and oversees the day-to-day operations of each store. He and co-founder Jason Mazzarone spent well over a year building their business, connecting with the community and taking care of customers at the flagship SoBol location in Sayville, New York, before deciding to open a second location in Patchogue. When that location took off as fast as the first did despite being just two towns over, Kalomiris said, he knew they were onto something with hands-on involvement in grassroots growth and began SoBol’s franchising journey.
Because the franchise brand is Long Island born and bred, SoBol benefits tremendously from community involvement, as evidenced by its explosive growth in the market. Kalomiris attributes this to the fact he and Mazzarone both grew up in Sayville, so they have a deep understanding of how community-centric the area is. Director of Franchise Operations Paul Gucciardo, who took over SoBol’s Huntington location in October 2018, chose to get involved with the brand as a franchise owner for this very reason.
“I joined the SoBol team in the spring of 2017, and when the chance to purchase a location became available, I jumped at the chance,” he said. “My kids go to school in Huntington and I’m deeply entrenched in the community. I knew it’d be great for the store to have a familiar face. One of SoBol’s core values is to be community driven, which is clear in its commitment to growing the business in the grassroots.”
Kalomiris echoed Gucciardo’s sentiment. “We understood very early on that our operations should reflect our idea of community business,” he said. “We are always participating in community events and recruiting staff locally. We also make it a point to connect with our customers by asking for their names rather than giving them an order number because everyone should feel like a regular at SoBol. It’s always been a major aspect of our business that I feel has contributed to our success.”
“Our corporate-owned stores linked to local organizations help us show franchisees how important and profitable it is to be involved,” Gucciardo said.
The success SoBol has generated from corporate investment proves there’s a competitive advantage to having skin in the game. Leading by example from the store level lays a strong groundwork for SoBol franchisees to follow to build up a strong customer base and improve unit-level economics. Real-life intel from stores on a daily basis helps franchisees gain confidence in the brand because they know the decisions being made impact the people making them personally as well.
For Kalomiris, corporate investment into both its stores and people will remain an integral part of SoBol’s strategic plan as it pursues further expansion. “You have to reinvest in order to bring success to your business,” he said. “A major part of our success is our awesome, customer-centric staff. They are the most important investment for us and if we can work with them to understand where we can improve, we think we can continue this success for a very long time.