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Juice Bar Operator

These days, people can't seem to get enough fresh-squeezed juices and slushy drinks with catchy names such as Orange Dream, Raspberry Heaven and Coffee Colada. In fact, today's health-conscious consumers see healthy eating as a way of enhancing their well-being.

The byproduct of this health craze is a new business niche, slowly being filled by aspiring entrepreneurs. Juice bars are popping up everywhere, offering fresh-blended drinks made from fresh fruits, juices, crushed ice and non-fat frozen yogurt or sherbet. Also popular are a wide assortment of add-ins, such as protein powder, calcium and gingko biloba.

For Smooth Operators

Hundreds of juice bars have squeezed into the specialty drinks market over the past few years. While fruit and vegetable juices are their mainstays, the real draw is "smoothies" -- foamy shakes often fortified with nutrients and marketed as protein, energy or even immunity boosters.

Health food stores have been offering juices and smoothies for years, but separate juice bars started popping up around 1989. They caught on in health-conscious California first, with the rest of North America following soon after.

One of the challenges facing West Coast chains as they expand eastward was convincing consumers in cold-weather regions that they need frosty beverages in the middle of winter.

Susanne Verhaeghe has found a unique way to overcome that obstacle at the juice bar she owns. Verhaeghe opened her business in a gym, where she had a built-in clientele from the beginning.

Verhaeghe never had to go out and search for customers because people who go to gyms tend to be more interested in health and nutrition -- a perfect match for the type of product she offers.

Verhaeghe chops the fruit and vegetables and makes her juices from scratch, right in front of her customers. Inspired to open her own business while working as an assistant manager at a local deli, she took entrepreneurial training courses to complement her work experience in the service industry.

She attributes much of her success to the fact that she had a viable business plan in place before opening the doors to her juice bar.

At a juice bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, co-owners Jim and Robert Millican rely on business backgrounds that include business management, economics, banking and journalism. Their venture came out of a realization that, while more and more people are finding themselves on the go, those who care about what they put into their bodies can't always find a way to eat healthily and quickly.

"We cater to that need," says Jim Millican. "Our duties as owners combine three elements: working with customers, managing staff and managing our inventory."

Their menu includes fruit smoothies -- made-to-order blended drinks featuring fruits like bananas, pineapples and strawberries -- juices and healthful snacks.

Recipe for Success

"Figure out exactly what your customer is looking for, then pick the right location for your restaurant," says Robert Millican. "Get experience in the food industry. Working for any type of restaurant will prove beneficial, along with acquiring some business knowledge."

As with any type of entrepreneurial venture, the juice bar owner usually gets out what they put into the business. According to Robert Millican, after the initial two-year start-up period, a juice bar owner in North America can expect to gross $50,000 to $150,000 in sales.

Whether the juice bar is a passing fad that will go out of vogue when the next new food trend comes along is a question only consumers can answer. But juice bar owners are confident that they have created a permanent demand for healthy drinks. And so far, the industry shows little sign of slowing down.

Titus says the industry is essentially divided into three segments -- the juice and smoothie bars; the desserts; and the "mixed" segment -- those businesses that offer a wide variety of products.

Young entrepreneurs who are willing to learn the ropes in the food industry -- and who pick up some business basics along the way -- should have no problem breaking into this healthy market niche.


Food Insight
Information on food safety, nutrition and health

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