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Smooth Move: Merger Forms Top Franchisee.

Little Rock is now home to the largest Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchisee in the United States, and Dyne Hospitality Group has plans to grow even bigger.

Dyne Hospitality was created in December by the merger of two Tropical Smoothie franchisees: Tropical Tango of Little Rock and QSR Management Group of Jacksonville, Florida. Together, the companies had 40 Tropical Smoothie locations in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas.

Glen Johnson, owner of Tropical Tango, is now co-CEO of Dyne, along with Nick Crouch, who owned QSR Management. And on Aug. 24, Dyne opened its 48th Tropical Smoothie location, in Hurst, Texas, just northeast of Fort Worth. The Hurst location is the 700th store for Tropical Smoothie, based in Atlanta. Dyne has also added Alabama to the states in which it owns Tropical Smoothies.

Tropical Smoothie, founded in 1997, is a quick-serve restaurant focusing on, yes, smoothies, but also wraps, sandwiches and "bowl food," which is, well, food in a bowl. Tropical Smoothie's bowls contain foods like rice, black beans, avocado, lettuce and chicken, all of which can be found in its Baja chicken bowl, for example. (Bowl food has become quite the trend, with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle serving it at their wedding. Bowl food is usually healthy and well-suited to Instagramming.)

Johnson was born and raised in the Clearwater, Florida, area, coming to Arkansas in 2004 to attend Harding University in Searcy. He never graduated. Instead, Johnson, with a family background in real estate, became involved in the Fayetteville Shale boom, starting Blue Flame Minerals, an investor in oil and gas properties. During this time, he also started Crescent Commercial, a commercial real estate company.

But then came the Great Recession, and business fell off dramatically. "So I started looking at different industries to get into that weren't as impacted in a negative way by recessions, and so that's how I got into Tropical Smoothie Cafe," Johnson said. Fast-casual and quick-serve restaurants tend to fare better during economic downturns. Johnson opened his first Tropical Smoothie Cafe in North Little Rock in 2011, and by the time of the merger in 2017, he had 26.

Johnson met Crouch, who had grown his Tropical Smoothie outlets to 14 during a similar period, at a franchise convention and they clicked. "Nick--he's a very talented restaurant operator," Johnson said. They'd see each other every year and Crouch "would always be the one where I would end up talking for hours about real estate and what we're trying to do in the brand and products, development, operations and all of that," Johnson said. "And I had always been looking for a good person to partner with or to help on the operations side, and that's kind of Nick's strong suit, what he loves to do the most."

At Dyne Hospitality, Crouch oversees operations and marketing, while Johnson is responsible for the real estate, construction, finance and administrative sides of the business.

Johnson first encountered Tropical Smoothie in Jacksonville, Arkansas. He loved the vibe and the feel of it. "I really liked the energy that it had, just from a brand standpoint." He also loved Tropical Smoothies' products.

Johnson saw the restaurant industry moving into healthier products and thought that an emphasis on drive-through convenience would be a strategy he as a franchisee could exploit.

Dyne Hospitality's goal is to have 52 Tropical Smoothie Cafes by the end of this year, 70 by the end of 2019 and 100 by the end of 2020. Average annual sales at a Dyne Tropical Smoothie are about $750,000, Johnson said.

In addition, Dyne Hospitality is an area developer for Tropical Smoothie, authorized to sell franchise agreements in Oklahoma and West Texas.

Dyne has about 1,000 part- and fulltime employees throughout its operations.

"Our mission is to create opportunity," Johnson said. "And so we have general managers who want to be district managers and district managers who want to be director of operations and assistant managers who want to be general managers. And that's something Nick and I are always talking about. 'Wow, we have to grow quickly just to keep our team from going elsewhere.'"

Jan Cottingham

JCottingham@ABPG.com

Caption: Glen Johnson

Caption: Nick Crouch

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Title Annotation:Restaurants
Author:Cottingham, Jan
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Sep 3, 2018
Words:711
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