Although buzzy phrases like “clean ingredients,” “no artificial preservatives” and “cage-free” have circulated the health-conscious restaurant industry for some time, Landon and Kat Eckles believe that no national chain has ever attempted to meticulously curate a USDA organic-certified menu and lifestyle to go along with it. It’s within this clean-eating white space that the husband-and-wife team have been rapidly expanding their smoothie and health food franchise, Clean Juice.
“I think that Clean Juice is going to set the standard for what it means to have a truly healthy, fast, organic concept because no one else has done it before,” Landon Eckles said. “I do think that people are going to start thinking about fast food in a different way; fast food doesn't have to be gross — it can be clean and it can be healthy.”
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While Kat Eckles has a background in health and wellness and is a certified health coach, Landon’s background is in pharmaceuticals and real estate. Clean Juice has grown to 120 stores in just seven years, with 20 openings in 2021 and 40 more planned for 2022.
This year, the company added sandwiches to the menu so that it could expand beyond its repertoire of green juices and smoothies. Clean Juice also announced its first celebrity partnership with former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who will be opening a few Clean Juice stores in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.
Although having such high standards when it comes to food quality and nutrition value has made the supply chain more challenging to navigate, it has become easier over time as Clean Juice’s purchasing power has grown with its franchise.
The Eckleses pride themselves on preaching what they sell and think of Clean Juice as a lifestyle brand, complete with a podcast on healthy eating and merchandise. Franchisees usually join the team not just because they want to join a successful franchise but because they’re passionate about the Clean Juice lifestyle.
“Our guests kept asking us, ‘Can I bring Clean Juice to my community?’” Landon Eckles said. “So the growth of the franchise program was really out of demand. The best franchisors find success when they're not forcing it. Our franchisees clearly saw a need for an organic food establishment in their community, and we help them solve that problem.”
The Eckleses are also careful about expanding at the right pace, onboarding franchisees that are a fit for the brand and making sure that they can still provide personal touches to help their partners. Eventually, though, they want to grow to 1,100 units across the country. But it’s not just about expanding their own clean food empire; the duo hope to influence the restaurant industry as a whole.
“I don't think it has to be as severe as a restaurant promising to be 100% organic and clean because we understand how hard that can be, but maybe your local breakfast place starts serving free-range eggs, or just little changes so that customers know you’re trying and they’re going to visit you more,” Kat Eckles said.
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