So You Want to Open a Smoothie Bar

So You Want to Open a Smoothie Bar

Current trends toward healthier eating have led to a boom in smoothie businesses across the country. Even with this boom, there are many areas where smoothie bars are lacking. Given the market availability and the potential profitability a smoothie bar can offer, now is the perfect time to make your dreams of owning your own business a reality.

Table of Contents

Franchise or Independent

The first thing to consider when choosing what type of smoothie bar to open is whether you want to go it alone or you want to franchise. There are many benefits to franchising, such as having an existing client base, and advertising like television and radio spots, as well as social media. You may, however, be limited in your menu options, and the franchise and royalty fees may put the concept beyond reach.

A franchise fee is the flat fee you pay to participate in the chain. You'll be able to advertise using their name, and you'll be expected to follow the details outlined in their guidelines. A royalty fee is a percentage that you pay to the franchisor. This percentage can be lowered as time goes by.

Below is a reference to give you some idea of the minimum amount of money you should expect to invest when franchising, not including space, equipment, inventory, licenses, and labor:

Tropical Smoothie Café $25,000 6% 20 Years $300,000
Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffees & Smoothies $27,500-59,500 N/A 10 Years $100,000
Smoothie King $30,000 6% 10 Years $250,000
Surf City Squeeze $30,000 6% 10 Years $250,000

Location & Operation

As with any business, choosing the right location is the key to success. With a smoothie venture, however, the location may be an even more critical consideration. The target audience for smoothies may not be as encompassing as say, milkshakes, so you'll need to make sure that your location is primed for health-minded people. Shopping malls and busy campuses are excellent locations because they have high volumes of both foot and car traffic. You may also consider a kiosk or stand at the local fitness center. You may also opt to take your smoothies on the road with a truck, which will allow you to go where the people are.

Once you've decided how to open a smoothie bar and what type it will be, you'll then have to think about how you'll outfit the space. If you're going with a truck, the cost of seating for customers will be zero. Furnishings are also kept to a minimum with a kiosk or a food court stand. If you're going full-tilt on a brick-and-mortar building, you'll need restaurant furniture like seating, lighting, fixtures, and décor to make your smoothie bar welcoming and accessible. In any case, you'll need service and flatware and ways to organize both, whether they're disposable or multi-use. If you're strictly doing smoothies, the smallwares you'll need will be less than if you're offering food items as well. At minimum, you'll need cups and straws and probably spoons, if you're making thick concoctions. If food will be added, you'll need the proper utensils to eat it with and plates and bowls to eat it from.

Smoothie Equipment

A huge variety of possibilities exist when it comes to equipment and opening a smoothie shop, but no matter how large or small your outfit will be, you'll likely need blenders and ice makers . If you want to add food selections to your menu options, you'll need the right equipment for that, as well. Janitorial supplies and business management tools will be required, no matter how large or small your business will be.


Given the sheer volume of smoothies you'll be making, you may find that in-counter blenders are the most convenient option, especially since most bars will create their smoothies in plain sight. This can add an entertainment and a quality control element to your service. If you choose a blender that has high horsepower, it will probably be loud. If so, a unit with noise reduction capability will be an addition your customers and employees will appreciate.

Ice Makers

Ice makers come in many sizes and have the ability to produce many different styles of ice. If you're operating a small shop or you don't have much space, you may opt for an undercounter unit. You may also need an undercounter unit in addition to a larger, full-size unit so you can have a supply of ice at the counter, and more in the back to ensure you always have plenty of this smoothie staple. You'll want to make sure you get a unit that will keep up with your demand. Flake or nugget ice will produce the smoothest texture and be gentler on your blender.

Janitorial Supplies

To keep your health inspector happy and your customers comfortable, you'll want to make sure your facility is clean and well-maintained. Items like waste receptacles and cleaning supplies are an important element that can't be overlooked. In a brick-and-mortar business, restroom supplies will be an added necessity.

Business Management

Efficient organization and management of the monetary aspects of your business can be just as important as your famous recipe and fresh ingredients. You'll need to make sure you have cash registers, time clocks, and other office equipment that will be needed to start a smoothie bar business and keeping it flowing effectively.

Behind the Scenes

Much goes into maintaining the fresh ingredients smoothies are known for. Of course, you'll need refrigerators to keep fresh produce crisp and nutrient-rich. Undercounter refrigerators and refrigerated prep tables will keep ingredients handy when dealing with customers at the counter. Freezers will help when you want to make coconut ice cubes or add frozen fruit in place of some or all of your ice. A juicer will allow you to include fresh-squeezed juice—an addition that many of your clients will want. An abundant supply of fruit and vegetable tools like fruit and vegetable slicers, apple and pineapple corers, and table-mount dicers will make the constant work of producing smoothies less of a chore for your staff. Storage bins and shelving will also help keep your ingredients organized and contaminant-free. Even if you opt for disposable serving and tableware, you'll still need dishwashers and sinks to serve your blended treats.

Menu Choices & Ingredients

Soups, salads, and sandwiches make excellent, healthy pairings with smoothies. Sandwiches are an easy way to add healthy, filling ingredients like turkey, lean roast beef, and endless sliced vegetables to your menu. Sandwiches will require equipment like slicers and food prep tables. Anything you can put on a sandwich, you can put on a salad, so these ingredients will double the number of items on your menu without requiring additional ingredients or effort. You'll also need ovens, proofers, and slicers if you'll be serving fresh-baked buns and bread. Go above and beyond by offering artisan rolls and loaves. A panini press or a griddle will allow you to serve those sandwiches warm for an added touch. Soup warmers are another simple, cost-effective way to add to your bottom line.

Most smoothie bars are known for their ingredients, from protein additives to fresh "superfoods" like kale. There are those, however, who simply want a beverage that tastes good without regard for its health benefits. For them, you may want to include more indulgent ingredients like ice cream, fruit juice, sugar, whipped cream, and syrups. These items are high in empty calories, but are great for the occasional treat—and many people are looking for just that when out and about.

Before you open a smoothie bar, it will be important to secure vendors to ensure you get the freshest and best ingredients to make your bar competitive. You can take fresh fruit and yogurt up a notch with these signature ingredients, but you'll need to make sure you have good suppliers and a price point that allows you a decent profit margin:

Adding Protein: There are several kinds of protein powders on the market, both animal-product-based (casein, whey, and egg) and plant-based (soy, hemp, rice, and pea). Of course, you can add protein to the mix without powders by incorporating things like non-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, almond butter, tahini, oats, and a variety of nuts and seeds.

Slimming Down: One sure way to lose weight is to kick-start your metabolism. Smoothies are a great way to do that because they are filling but typically have fewer calories than a full meal. They're also a good way to make sure you still get the nutrients you need. One percent, almond, or soy milk and flavored waters can help you achieve a smooth consistency while keeping calories to a minimum. Healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocado can help provide an energy boost, as can high-fiber carbs like raspberries, blueberries, spinach, and cucumber.

Wellness: Smoothies that incorporate these superfoods, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and calcium-rich yogurt and milk have been proven to be highly impactful on overall health and well—being. The health benefits associated with smoothies include:

  • Improved liver function
  • Increased overall energy
  • Increased mental sharpness
  • Post-workout muscle repair
  • Strengthened bones
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Clearer complexion

Licenses & Permits

When opening any food establishment, a number of licenses and permits will be required. While the details regarding each will vary from state to state and locality to locality, you can expect at least a health inspection and a food vending permit when starting a smoothie shop. The Small Business Administration can help you determine which permits will be required and also give you general pointers for opening a business. You should also contact your local governments and agencies for specifics on what you need to start your business and to keep it compliant.