Thinking of Buying a Fast-Casual Franchise? Read this report first.

Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis

Soup from fast-casual restaurant chain Blendz.

Matt and Denise Phipps used to find themselves famished during busy workdays and frustrated by the search for a fast, but healthy meal. They opened Blendz to fill that niche in Campbell, California, in 2003 and now have seven locations open, two of which are franchises, and aggressive plans for further franchising.

“We didn’t have a restaurant background, but we had strong corporate and marketing agency backgrounds. We looked at it from a consumer standpoint,” explains Matt Phipps, CEO and cofounder.

“In the corporate world, your days are packed and all of a sudden it’s 2 p.m. and you’re starving. You have no time to sit down, but you want a healthy meal. That’s where we started.”

Blendz offers tossed-to-order salads, grilled panini sandwiches, fruit smoothies, and gourmet soups at the speed of traditional fast food. Gourmet soups are rotated daily. “We try to enhance the flavor by garnishing our soups with our salad toppings.” Phipps says. The chicken tortilla soup, for example, is topped with tortilla strips and a squeeze of lime.

Also available to mix in to tossed-to-order salads are 30 toppings. Customers can also build their own smoothies. Freshly squeezed orange, carrot, beet, ginger, and wheatgrass are on the menu, too.

“There’s a lot of competition now in this category of healthier options, but most are designed for you to come in and sit down in a café environment. We created ours to grab it and get on with your day,” Phipps says.

For those who want to sit, Blendz’s 1,200- to 1,400-square-foot stores have limited seating. Still, the lively in-store environment features music, muted televisions, and free Wi-Fi. “We wanted the restaurants to have a refreshing, energetic feel, even though 65 percent of our customers take things to go,” Phipps says.

The most popular lunch and dinner item is the Grilled Chicken Panino—a grilled chicken breast, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, and basil pesto sandwich. At breakfast there are burritos and paninis.

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