Scheduled to open its 100th unit this month, Robeks Corp., an all-franchised smoothie chain based in Manhattan Beach, Calif., recently hired Sheri Miksa to lead the brand to the next level of growth.
The former president and chief executive of the Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill chain, based in Carlsbad, Calif., Miksa is a 25-year industry veteran with a resume that includes stints at Seattle Coffee Co., airline catering company LSG Sky Chefs and Taco Bell.
Earlier this year, New York-based private-equity firm Emigrant Capital Corp. acquired a significant share of Robeks, joining longtime stakeholder Maverick Capital. Together, the two firms hold a majority stake in the growing smoothie concept.
What attracted you to accept your new position with Robeks?
The smoothie category is growing at a pace ahead of even QSR. Robeks has an opportunity for growth in what is already a growing category. Smoothies are where specialty coffees were 20 years ago, which at the time was a growing but also very fragmented segment. There was an opportunity for a breakout brand, which became Starbucks.
I look at Starbucks as a model. Our concept is still young. Twenty years ago, no one dreamed that specialty coffee would be defined as broadly as it is today and that Starbucks would become a global brand. At Robeks, I see an opportunity to create a global brand.
What makes Robeks stand out in the smoothie crowd for consumers?
Robeks uses high-quality ingredients. Others aren’t emphasizing nutrition, they’re positioning their smoothies more as just a treat. We’re using individually quick-frozen fruits with no added sugar, and we’re looking for ingredients with a particularly high nutritional profile, like açai berries, which are very high in antioxidants.
Our supplements are proprietary, and some units have sandwiches, wraps and salads. Most of our stores also have other snacks, like gourmet pretzels or power muffins.
How about the appeal to franchisees? What would make them choose to invest in the Robeks brand?
FAST FACTS EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in musical theater, University of Alaska; master’s degree in business administration, Stanford University Graduate School of Business AGE: 49 BIRTHPLACE: Seattle HOBBIES: yoga, walking on the beach, enjoying Broadway-quality musicals, traveling FAVORITE SMOOTHIE: Açai Energizer
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in musical theater, University of Alaska; master’s degree in business administration, Stanford University Graduate School of Business
HOBBIES: yoga, walking on the beach, enjoying Broadway-quality musicals, traveling
FAVORITE SMOOTHIE: Açai Energizer
We’ve got a relatively simple operating model [and] a small footprint, and we’re competitive in terms of franchising costs.
The brand is very attractive to multiunit franchisees interested in a secondary concept.
We also emphasize innovation and product development. We’re about to reintroduce a Green Tea Sensation smoothie, and a Yerba Mate Chai, as well as a Pump It Up Pumpkin for the holidays.
Can you say what growth and development goals you have as the new chief executive?
We’re in a growth mode, but it’s too early to say what growth strategy we’re going to be looking at. We have more single-unit operators now, but we’ll be looking to bring in more multiunit operators.
I’m very active in the Women’s Foodservice Forum, and I’m currently on the executive development committee of that association, so I will be looking to increase the diversity of our franchise community.
Quite simply, we’re on a mission to attract the very best operators and executors of our brand.