A few years ago, when owner Brandon Korman walked into a Tropical Smoothie Café in his native New York, he knew he wanted to learn more about this business. “I had been a media executive for many years, but I had always wanted to own my own business. My wife told me about Tropical Smoothie; I walked into one in Long Island and fell in love,” says Brandon. “I became a huge fan. And then after my initial love affair, I spent a year researching this business. I went into all of them up there, talked to the business owners, called other franchisees. I actually met with the company executives to find out about their vision for the company, what they thought it could be in the future. When I signed on five years ago there were 330 stores, and now just last week they just opened their 800th store.”
Brandon and his wife Deena moved to Leland and opened their first store in Wilmington, and now they have Leland’s Waterford and Porter’s Neck locations as well. He says one of the factors in their success has been the franchiser’s commitment to their franchisees. “They really care about the people they’re in business with – I’m actually on a bunch of different boards with the company,” Brandon explains. “Besides running our own stores, I take an active role in the overall company. I’m on the CEO’s board and the operations and marketing committees. They are very transparent and aligned with us as franchisees. Sometimes other franchise businesses are not as committed to helping their franchisees succeed. But Tropical Smoothie is fantastic – they help with menu optimization, marketing, store design and operations.”
But franchise support is just the beginning. Brandon and Deena run their stores with a complete commitment and personal touch. “People think that you can just open a franchise and you’ll be fine, but you have to be very involved,” he says. “My wife and I are very involved in the community; we do lots of philanthropic events – fundraisers with schools, churches, the American Cancer Society, the MDA. This is a family business. We live in Waterford and we love the community. Franchisees like me are the new mom and pop – we are small businesses, very much a part of our communities.”
Though the company started in Florida 22 years ago with flavorful, creative smoothies, they quickly built on their menu to include a wide selection of healthy wraps, flatbreads, quesadillas, sandwiches, tacos and salads. Brandon emphasizes that variety. “What I want people to realize is that our menu is food-based,” he says. “We’re called Tropical Smoothie Café but we’re much more. I like to call us ‘an amazing café that happens to have really good smoothies.’ That’s how I want people to think of us. At least half of our options are food items like wraps, sandwiches, salads, quesadillas, flatbreads.”
And the menu changes regularly, to introduce new interesting choices for their patrons to try. “We love to keep the menu fresh so every 8-10 weeks we have something new,” Brandon relates. “Right now there are a couple of new things. We just became the proud official smoothie sponsor of the Carolina Panthers – the ‘Panthercolada’ is new. And in the next couple of months we’re introducing our fall smoothies – the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, the Caramel Smoothie. Plus we’re introducing a new food item – the Jerk Chicken Quesadilla – which is fantastic. People need to know we are a ‘flavorful café.’ We use basil, cilantro, pineapple salsa, making lots of different flavorful food.”
With an eye toward healthy choices, some of the popular menu options include King Caesar Chicken, Thai Chicken and Hummus Veggie wraps. Toasted sandwiches like Turkey and Apple Club and Cranberry Pecan Chicken and artisan tacos like Smoked Jalapeno Chicken, Cliantro Lime Fish and Korean BBQ Steak offer different and spicy choices. Toasted flatbreads include Chipotle Chicken Club and Tzatziki Steak, yum!
And of course the 24-ounce smoothie choices are many. Classic smoothies are made with all kinds of fruit, including kiwi, mango, strawberries, blueberries and pineapples. Superfood smoothies will give your metabolism a boost using acai, kale, goji or pomegranate, to name a few. Supercharged smoothies go even farther with supplements and superfoods like whey and soy protein, peanut butter, flax seed and nonfat yogurt. And indulgent smoothies using white chocolate, coffee, bananas and coconut appeal to your taste buds.
You can also choose gluten-free bowls, Splenda for calorie-watching or supplements like probiotics or vitamins and fresh add-ins like ginger, whole grain oats, flax seed, spinach and kale. Also Tropical Smoothie Café offers breakfast all- day, with choices like the Southwest Omelet, Spinach and Feta Omelet wraps, and Peanut Butter Banana Crunch Flatbread. If you’re a pint-sized customer, you can ask your parent to order a healthy kids’ wrap or a 12-ounce smoothie.
Tropical Smoothie Café also offers catering for small and large events. Brandon describes their approach. “We can cater for all types of events – parties, graduations, sales events,” he says. “We have a whole other menu for catering – nice trays or boxes, hummus platters, cookie trays, tropical chicken salad we make in house. The biggest catering we’ve done so far was 300 people, so we can do any size event.”
Once you try Tropical Smoothie Café, you will keep coming back. To encourage that, they offer a simple free app that rewards your patronage. “You get $5 off for every $50 you spend,” Brandon explains. “You can put your credit card in there and order ahead of time and it will be ready for you to pick up. Order, pay and get rewards all through the app. We want to make your life easier – order online or through the app and come when you’re ready.”
Whether it’s dine in, take out or catering your next event, Tropical Smoothie Café is at your service. The Kormans invite you to come and enjoy their food. Brandon says it best: “Come and get a 30-minute destination for flavor! Relax, let us take care of you and think of us for more than just smoothies. We’re a flavorful café.”
Tropical Smoothie Café
143 Poole Road
Monday-Friday 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.