Brix Holdings focuses on growing all four of its foodservice chains
with a major emphasis this year on RedBrick Pizza and Smoothie Factory.
By Janice Hoppe-Spiers, Knighthouse Media
The fast-casual restaurant market in the United States is expected to continue enjoying high growth rates. With a plethora of opportunities for franchisees to invest in the segment, multi-brand franchisor Brix Holdings plans to set two of its brands’ business models apart this year with new flagship locations.
“It’s an exciting year for RedBrick Pizza Kitchen Cafe® because fast-casual brick oven pizza is so hot with what Blaze and MOD Pizza have accomplished, that this May we will be opening our first flagship under our new store design in Milwaukee as part of a 10 store development agreement in Wisconsin,” Brix Holdings Vice President of Franchise Sales and Chief Marketing Officer Jim Notarnicola says. “We also signed a development agreement in New York and will have a flagship open there by the end of the year. For RedBrick Pizza, this is to demonstrate that our model can perform as well or better than the other brands. Once that happens, we expect that the RedBrick Pizza brand will take off.”
The franchisor also signed development agreements last year to launch flagship locations in Dallas and Detroit for its Smoothie Factory Juice Bar® brand, which the company expects will open this summer. The goal here is to also demonstrate the potential of that brand and its ability to compete with Smoothie King and other more established smoothie concepts. “We are also broadening the menu to include acai bowls to complement Smoothie Factory’s smoothies and juices,” Notarnicola adds. “We are also rolling out online ordering and pickup to complement third-party delivery services for Smoothie Factory and RedBrick Pizza.”
RedBrick Pizza and Smoothie Factory are two of Brix Holdings four franchise brands, which also includes the popular frozen yogurt chain Red Mango and Souper Salad. The beginning of this multi-brand franchisor was formed in 2006 when Notarnicola and a few of his peers – all former executives in the foodservice or convenience store segments – entered the later stages of their corporate lives and decided to own and operate restaurants.
“We started with Taco Bell restaurants in Long Island in New York and were looking for a concept to add to our portfolio that was more on trend and had a faster return on investment,” Notarnicola remembers. “At the time, frozen yogurt was taking off and we came across Red Mango. We fell in love with Red Mango founder Dan Kim and the concept and took a development agreement for Long Island, building five stores and it exceeded our expectations.”
Brix Holdings was formed in 2013, becoming the parent company of Red Mango when the team decided to get back into corporate leadership and has been expanding its number of brands ever since. “More than 10 years later, Red Mango is our largest brand and the foundation of the company,” Notarnicola says. “Our strategy is to buy concepts we think have the potential to have best-in-class products in a category and a customer experience that’s on-trend. We then optimize the store design, business model, brand and relaunch it as a resurrected franchise.”
Brix Holdings’ brands are attractive to potential franchisees because the concepts are on-trend and offer superior products in the better-for-you segment. The multi-brand franchisor believes it is also appealing because the company is small enough to manage its brands at high standards while remaining flexible. “Our franchisees work directly with me and our other principal partners,” Notarnicola says. “They aren’t limited to dealing with frontline management. Once franchisees have shown they have the resources and experience to successfully execute with one brand, they can develop any of our brands in their market, giving them multi-category flexibility.”
The ideal franchisee needs to know their market area, have business expertise, is committed to developing relationships within their communities and work well with customers and employees. “We equip them with our multi-brand toolkit, which allows them to take advantage of investments and growth as it comes,” Notarnicola explains. “It gives them the flexibility to compete in retail real estate. They might start with Red Mango but find a center that has a good space in it, but if it already has a frozen yogurt shop, they can switch to our smoothie concept or possibly even our pizza concept. We find our franchisees like that and we attract franchisees from larger systems where they are limited to one brand and often have no territory protection, resulting in limited growth opportunities. That’s why it makes sense to work with the brands of Brix Holdings.”
Once a new franchisee comes aboard, Brix Holdings works with them from signing the agreement through to the grand opening and beyond. After a store opens, Brix Holdings’ franchise support managers visit stores regularly and are in contact daily to ensure operations are running smoothly.
Although retail and/or restaurant experience is required for franchisees interested in RedBrick Pizza and Souper Salad, Red Mango and Smoothie Factory franchisees do not. “About one-third of our franchisees are owner/operators running one or two stores themselves, one-third have more business acumen and are multi-unit operators and the remaining franchisees are in the baby boomer generation looking for a retirement business or something for their children to take over down the line. “If a franchisee is committed to connecting with their community and marketing, we can teach them the rest,” Notarnicola adds.
To date, Red Mango is Brix Holdings’ largest franchise with 200 locations in North America. Red Mango has had particular success in non-traditional locations such as airports, convenience stores, and colleges and enjoys national master agreements with Sodexo, Compass Foods, Aramark, Grove Snacks Inc, and Bolla Food Marts. The remaining three brands have about 50 locations. The company’s goal is to increase its number of locations across all four brands, but especially RedBrick Pizza and Smoothie Factory Juice Bar. “We have so few locations spread over four brands in multiple markets that we tend to have challenges related to scale,” Notarnicola says. “That will start to get better when we get up to 500 locations. As a private company, we are happy if we open 25 to 30 locations per year, but we expect as our new flagships open we will pick up more momentum with RedBrick Pizza and Smoothie Factory.”
Brix Holdings will continue to focus on sustainable growth, meaning only taking on what it can manage while ensuring its brands operate at the highest quality. “Brix Holdings is a partnership of people who like franchising, have done this our whole lives and enjoy doing it in a quality way and helping our franchisees achieve their goals,” Notarnicola concludes.