RainTree Helped Jamba Juice Achieve Franchise Development Goals for 2018

RainTree Helped Jamba Juice Achieve Franchise Development Goals for 2018

Franchise growth played a role in Jamba Juice’s acquisition by Focus Brands Inc. in a deal valued at $200 million

2018 has been a fruitful one for RainTree and Jamba Juice. RainTree, a franchise development agency, helped the smoothie giant make major strides on the franchise growth side in 2018. Jamba Juice met its franchise development goals for 2018 within four months of going live with its franchise sales program, and the smoothie company was also acquired by Focus Brands in a deal valued at $200 million.

There were two major challenges for RainTree in terms of helping Jamba Juice grow. One was that the smoothie brand experienced slow growth in both 2016 and 2017, and only awarded a few new franchises in both years.

“Jamba Juice’s growth rate in the previous two years was minimal,” RainTree CEO Brent Dowling said. “They sought RainTree out as the best option available in the industry to remedy that for them.” He added that in addition to slow growth, there were very specific territory growth priorities, ruling out much of the country as possible new market targets.

RainTree plugged away, though, and created geo-targeted lead generation campaigns in key markets, Dowling said.

“Jamba Juice is an iconic brand, and working with such a large enterprise over the past year has been a truly remarkable experience and a defining moment for RainTree,” he said. “We’ve had incredible success with smaller brands in the few years prior. We truly believe we have the most effective franchise development program and team members in the industry, and just needed a chance to prove that at scale. The RainTree team exceeded even my wildest expectations in this case; I couldn’t be more proud. It’s caused a lot of buzz in the industry; I’m now literally turning away more than 5 brands a week on average, simply because we have to stay quite selective of the brands we represent.”

Loren Bontrager, the director of franchise business development for Jamba Juice, praised RainTree’s methods, sales team and creativity in helping the Jamba Juice brand grow. He specifically cited “highly-produced videos for both franchise support and franchisee testimonials,” as well as RainTree’s great relationship with portals and franchise broker groups. There is also RainTree’s digital component and targeted social media ads.

“They understand website SEO and how to increase your organic lead stream,” Bontrager said of RainTree. “They have a great way of packaging the franchise opportunity, presenting it to the right audience and then certainly following up and picking up the phone quickly when leads come in.”

Bontrager’s relationship with RainTree goes back a long way. He previously worked with RainTree when he was at Teriyaki Madness in a franchise growth capacity, and so he already knew what the company was capable of when he joined Jamba Juice in August 2017. He immediately suggested that Jamba Juice bring on RainTree to help with their franchise growth efforts. The timing was perfect, as the smoothie giant was going through many changes. Jamba Juice did not have an in-house development team and there were very few employees. Most had been let go or had left for other opportunities.

“That’s why I felt so comfortable coming into Jamba Juice saying ‘I believe in this team,’” Bontrager said. “They’ve got a strong qualifier and sales team and process. It was a big transition period for the brand and made a lot of sense because we could move a lot more quickly and mitigate some of our risk of bringing people in-house and spending money by getting a result-driven program in place.”

The relationship between the two brands just might have helped in another major way. In August 2018 it was announced that Focus Brands acquired Jamba Juice in a deal valued at approximately $200 million. Jamba Juice will go from being a publicly-traded company to being privately held, Bontrager said.

“RainTree played a really big part in making us a viable option for Focus Brands,” Bontrager said.

He has nothing but high praise for the way RainTree conducts business and how well they work with brands.

“They are an extension of whatever brand they represent,” Bontrager said of RainTree. “They put on the colors of whoever they’re representing and it’s not the other way around. They are great at following direction, at being flexible and at being able to make changes very rapidly and quickly. It’s just as if they were on your internal team, and that’s a huge benefit.”

RainTree’s partnership program includes franchise packaging, lead generation and franchise sales. The company has helped companies award over 1,000 franchises since it started in 2013.

Cheba Hut Rides ‘The Green Wave’ as Expansion Heats Up

Cheba Hut Rides ‘The Green Wave’ as Expansion Heats Up

RainTree CEO Brent Dowling, Cheba Hut chief relationship officer Seth Larsen, and Cheba Hut COO Marc Torres

Over the past 20 years, Cheba Hut has earned the reputation as the bad boy on the block, and it’s perfectly OK with that. With a beach-y, free-spirited vibe, the marijuana-themed concept doesn’t want to be just another sandwich shop. It’s motto—“escape the established”—has driven Cheba Hut since it debuted 21 years ago in Colorado.

And as acceptance around the legalization of marijuana grows, Cheba Hut sees fresh opportunity. The brand believes it can capitalize on “the Green Wave,” chief operating officer Marc Torres says. In areas where marijuana is now legal, Cheba Hut partners with dispensaries by leaving menus in their waiting rooms as a form of cross promotion.

“We own that,” Torres says of the bad-boy positioning. “That’s something that we’re proud of. We’ve been doing business since 1998, way before legalization was even being talked about it.”

Torres says interest in the brand is spiking, from consumers as well as operators hoping to join Cheba Hut’s growth. The brand has turned down as many potential franchisees as it’s accepted, he adds.

“Nobody’s doing what we’re doing,” Torres says. “We really do feel like we’re in our own lane.”


Torres believes the brand will hit 35 units by the end of this year and the 50-unit milestone by the end of 2020.

Cheba Hut’s expansion strategy has evolved over the past two decades, corporately and on the franchised side. This year, the brand, which was featured on QSR’s 40/40 List in 2018, hit the 25-store milestone with the opening of its Las Vegas restaurant. Currently, the breakdown of units is 11 company-owned and 14 franchised.

In 2015, Cheba Hut put the brakes on franchising. Leadership realized in order for the brand to succeed and grow successfully, a complete review of operations and processes needed to take place. Over the last three years, Cheba Hut focused on improving its company stores to create a viable model that will be successful for franchisees to imitate, Torres says. Cheba Hut grew from six corporate locations to 11 during that time period. It had to walk the walk before it could ask others to.

After doubling the footprint of company restaurants, Cheba Hut felt it was time to explore franchising again in 2018.

“Our systems were in place and we were feeling great about the position that we were in,” Torres says.

Traditionally, Cheba Hut focused on markets supported by college towns. Its new growth chart, however, brings the brand to areas populated by younger consumers, like Atlanta, which aren’t tied just to campus life. Cheba Hut’s customers generally fit in the 18–34-year-old demographic.

Florida is another target where Torres sees massive potential. With the chill, beach-y vibe, the concept works in places like St. Augustine, where there’s not a major college crowd. But there’s still potential to open near campuses across the state.


Guests can pair their sandwiches with craft beer or cocktails if they want while dining at Cheba Hut.

“We feel like it goes extremely well in those types of markets where you’re typically looking for something more than a sandwich and go,” Torres says. “You want a cool place, you want someplace that adds to your trip. It adds to your experience wherever you’re at, whether it’s St Augustine or Miami beach, we feel like Cheba goes really well with, especially if you’re on vacation.”

Last year, Cheba Hut brought on five new franchise partners, each with three-store deals, which is the current standard. Torres says the chain will gradually increase the number of partners they bring on each year. By the end of 2019, Cheba Hut will welcome six to eight new franchises, it says.

Even though franchising is ramping up, company growth is progressing, too. Cheba Hut is on track to open five to eight units per year, Torres says, and expects to continue to do so over the next few years. Corporate expansion helps spread brand awareness and, in turn, supports franchise growth in new and existing markets.

“The idea behind that is we feel like the company stores keep us really close to our customers and to our operations,” Torres says. “We’re able to really use the best practices from within our company stores and get those out to the to the franchise community.”

Torres believes the brand will hit 35 units by 2020, and the 50-store milestone by the end of next year. If all goes accordingly, the company could double its footprint in less than two years. But Cheba Hut’s leadership isn’t going to force that directive. So far, growth has been organic and Torres says that will continue.

“The goal of getting to 200 locations by 2025, we don’t have that number written anywhere,” Torres says. “We don’t have 100 written anywhere. We don’t have 50 written anywhere. We’re focused on growing organically. We also have pause buttons in here where you know our goal is to be the best franchisor around and put our people in the best position possible.”


Cheba Hut brought on RainTree Franchise Sales to help find new franchise partners.

The work over the past few years set the company up to feel comfortable about this rate of expansion.

Unlike some of its competitors, Torres says, Cheba Hut’s focus is not just on the menu, but the overall experience a guest has when dining at the restaurant. It is not a place to just go grab a sandwich and leave—it’s a destination to enjoy something different, maybe a cocktail, and hang out with friends.

“People come here to hangout, they bring their friends, they bring their families,” Torres says. “That’s something that, again, nobody’s hitting on, especially in the sandwich segment.”

Even though the 18-34-year-old demographic makes up a majority of its customers, Torres says, Cheba Hut meshes well with blue-collar workers as well. They are a little older, have disposable income, and feel like they’re reliving a younger age when they’re at the restaurant.

“That’s something that we do really well as a brand,” Torres says. “When people come in, they feel like they’re back in college or back in their party days. I think that’s what sets us apart.”

Along with giving customers an experience, Cheba Hut also attracts with price. Customers typically get out of the door with a sandwich and a beer or cocktail for under $20.

“People that sometimes have the wrong idea about who we are and what we do,” Torres says. “Just come on in. Come on in, have a sandwich. Enjoy it. Cheba is not for everybody, but the people that get it are diehard fans and those are the people that we focus on serving every day.

Raintree Has Propelled Screenmobile to New Development Heights

Raintree Has Propelled Screenmobile to New Development Heights

How ScreenMobile has utilized RainTree’s franchise development expertise over the last 5 years to achieve sustained unit growth

When ScreenMobile president and CEO Scott Walker was shopping around for a franchise development partner to grow his established on-site window and door screen repair and replacement franchise, culture was his biggest priority. The brand was signing about three franchise agreements per year and Walker was looking to jumpstart expansion. He had already unsuccessfully interviewed three companies before consulting  RainTree, where he was met with the honesty and commitment he had been seeking.

“The RainTree team’s straightforward, real language and practicality was totally different than the other franchise development companies I’d talked to. RainTree made no lofty promises and shared our view that working hard leads to progress and success means being flexible and accommodating along the way,” Walker said. ScreenMobile enlisted RainTree’s services, and the relationship has only grown strong over the past five years.

From the start of the relationship, RainTree and ScreenMobile worked as a team. “As a mature brand with solid system implementation and support, we knew our strengths. RainTree’s knowledge and understanding of the franchise development world leveraged those strengths to bring growth to our system,” Walker said.

RainTree focused its efforts on improving ScreenMobile’s ability to develop leads and implement an education process that results in the recognition of good franchise candidates. “We really put a lot of effort into their website and franchise brochures in the beginning,” RainTree CEO Brent Dowling said. “We were strategic about implementing some really smart geo-targeted lead generation campaigns to reach our development goals,” he added.

What resulted over the next several years of partnership was a rise in signed franchise agreements that consistently falls within the range of 8-12 per year, almost triple the number that existed before ScreenMobile’s partnership with RainTree.

RainTree also helped ScreenMobile refine its franchise sales process and establish an exit strategy. “Brent helped us define a resale process so that when our franchisees get to certain level, they can engage with a professional team to assist in exiting the business,” Walker said. He also credits Dowling’s team with building ScreenMobile’s credibility among the broker community, which has led to an increase in broker business due to an assurance that leads are nurtured professionally.

But beyond the quantifiable returns, both Walker and RainTree Vice President of Franchise Development Brian Knuth point to the strong, tenured relationship between the companies as the most rewarding return. “We just really enjoy the people we get to work with,” Knuth said. “When you get to year four and five with a franchise, it feels like your own brand. It’s been really cool to see the relationship between the RainTree team and the ScreenMobile team blossom, and I think that’s a big part of why we’ve achieved success together.”

Walker pointed to RainTree’s expertise and professionalism as catalysts for a shift in franchisee perception of the ScreenMobile brand. “I wasn’t expecting RainTree to change the dynamic and perception of our franchisees about the brand. By putting a real team in place to develop and grow the brand, it really built up franchisee confidence and validation.” Additionally, Walker said his leadership team’s professionalism and sales acumen has risen to the next level through working with RainTree, something he called “interesting and rewarding.”

“RainTree knows what they are doing. They are professionals with great team behind them that can help a system at my stage to grow and develop,” Walker said.

Franchise Consultancy RainTree Helps Position Hounds Town USA for Franchise Growth

Franchise Consultancy RainTree Helps Position Hounds Town USA for Franchise Growth

RainTree brings the Hounds Town USA story to life through robust content and a thoughtful long-term marketing plan to achieve 200 percent growth over the next 18 months

When former NYPD canine handler and Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Police Department canine unit Mike Gould retired in 2001, his experience with dog behavior led him to start Hounds Town USA, an interactive doggie daycare, boarding, and grooming facility. He grew the brand to three corporate locations, two of which were sold as turn-key businesses to former employees and customers, before turning to franchising. Along with President Jackie Bondanza, the brand signed several more franchisees on their own, and realized that in order to properly scale the brand, they needed a franchising expert to not only position their brand in the marketplace, but to provide the strategy on how to recruit the franchisees that fit the brand best, both culturally and financially.

Enter RainTree, a franchise development firm that helps position both emerging and mature franchises for optimal growth. After working with several different sales companies over a six year time period, Bondanza was referred to RainTree by a colleague.

“Meeting the team was like a breath of fresh air. They are not only professional and good at what they do, they’re smart and innovative and ahead of the curve,” Bondanza said.

And the feeling is mutual.

“The RainTree office manager is a Golden Retriever named Drummer, so it’s safe to say we have a strong cultural connection to dogs and were drawn to Hounds Town USA,” said RainTree Development Manager Alex Gesten. “When we did a comparative study of the other doggy day care franchises, it was clear that the economics of Hounds Town were far superior to anything else out there, both from an investment and a profitability standpoint.”

RainTree quickly identified that founder Mike Gould’s background as a canine handler for the New York Police Department, as Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Police Department canine unit, and in charge of the Military Working Dog (MWD) program would be a differentiator that would resonate with potential franchise buyers.

To properly communicate how Gould’s background was operationalized to bring those same skills to franchisees and staff members, RainTree developed strong content, including a 6,000-word franchise report, and executed photoshoots to develop visuals to properly represent the story and deepen the emotional connection with prospects.

“With really strong content to rely upon, we were able to work with a minimal lead generation budget,” said Marketing Director Linton Dowling. “By focusing on creating compelling marketing collateral, we now need fewer leads to achieve our mutual franchise growth goals.”

That belief that content is king is shared by the RainTree the Hounds Town USA teams. RainTree co-founder and CEO Brent Dowling notes that “to win the awareness war in a highly competitive franchise landscape, you need not only regular content, but effective and value-driven content.”

He adds, “Mike hosts a number of radio shows focused on pet care and training, and he and Jackie host an awesome YouTube channel called Hounds Town TV. Plus, Jackie posts regularly on their blog, and sends out amazing newsletters. RainTree takes the same approach to content on the development side, and a lot of the content is transferable and translatable into the development program. Our role was to help find a voice for all that content that would resonate with franchise buyers, rather than doggy day care customers. We simply built lead generation strategies and a franchise sales process that utilized this content in a way that better connects with the psyche of a franchise buyer.”

Bondanza identifies RainTree’s holistic approach to brand growth, particularly in an emerging franchise, as a key factor in the success of the relationship. RainTree has helped develop the long term marketing, operational and system growth goals, making Hounds Town better positioned to grow.

“RainTree knows how to allocate budgets to maximize results, and there is always someone on their team who has a recommendation for improving the many aspects of our business, from legal to marketing and operations,” said Bondanza. “It’s refreshing to have professional, honest, and down-to-earth feedback and guidance even if this guidance comes at the cost of a lead, or of a short-term sales goal. RainTree fully understands that their job is not just to sell franchises; it’s to grow a brand. They see the bigger picture and are invested in it. And sometimes that means bypassing or turning down an opportunity for the greater, longer-term good. Understanding this is absolutely essential to a brand’s successful growth.”

Dowling notes that the two teams “quickly and seamlessly integrated into a singular, cohesive team, with shared goals, doing so in a way where we trust each other fully.”

“Like all brands in the RainTree portfolio, the working relationship is extremely strong, but in the case of Hounds Town, we’re all having an incredible amount of fun working on this concept and are even more excited for what the journey ahead of us,” said Dowling. “I have no doubt that Hounds Town USA will successfully penetrate a host of new markets in the US in the coming months and years. But today, we are all just enjoying the ride.”

Why Portals & Brokers Alone Aren’t Cutting it in Franchise Development

Why Portals & Brokers Alone Aren’t Cutting it in Franchise Development

With the evolution of the digital age, portals and brokers can’t be a brand’s only means of lead generation in the franchise sales process anymore

Before Google reached the peak of its powers, franchise portals and brokers were the go-to sources for prospective franchisees to connect to the ideal opportunity for them. Franchisors simply enlisted the services of brokers, who work to match those exploring franchise ownership with brands that are a good fit, or supplied information to franchise portals, who added their brand to a sea of other offerings to entice those same people. Since portals and brokers first emerged, the franchise sales process has evolved, demanding franchisors do more to acquire and retain leads.

Prospective franchisees have a wealth of information, news, sources, FDDs and more available at the click of the button. They have early access to a wide range of information on any brand, from investment requirements to potential profitability and pitfalls of the industry. Linton Dowling, marketing manager for RainTree, a company that specializes in franchise sales solutions, noted that prospective franchise buyers are engaging with portals and brokers at a different point in the sales process, armed with much more information and a bias toward certain brands that didn’t exist in the past.

“The great thing about the internet is that it allows people to make a much more educated decision,” Dowling said. “Now, the franchise sales process is about cutting through to your audience and keeping them engaged through the duration of the process with great content and stories beyond just saying, ‘my average unit volume is industry-leading,’” he added.

As this trend toward preemptive research and consideration becomes more common, portals and brokers alone can only take a company’s franchise development efforts so far. While acknowledging these means of lead generation still play an important role in any brand’s development, Dowling made note that as audiences become more informed, “engagement and content will be the driving forces in the franchise sales process.”

“At RainTree, we focus on building multi-channel lead generation campaigns, built with the backbone of a strong website with great user experience and visibility,” Dowling said. “We make sure to create these campaigns well-rounded and supported by not only brokers and portals, but also pay-per-click, websites, SEO, display, email and CRM-driven marketing,” he added.

Dowling noted that though the “top of the funnel” will always be key for any lead generation campaign, the cost efficiencies of non-broker leads means that Raintree places “equal, if not greater, emphasis” on other channels. “Portals do not have the ability to retarget, brokers do not have the scale or manpower to build out their own multi-channel lead generation and engagement campaigns. Their success is more personalized and operates uniquely outside of the digital space,” Dowling said.

Keeping audiences engaged with strong content delivered in a unique and powerful means appeals to the generational switch that is seeing more millennials becoming prospective franchisees.

The importance of content-driven engagement ties back to audiences being much more informed and having the ability to consume information and media at an astonishing rate, Dowling said. “As a millennial, I am often astounded by how quickly I can consume and digest stories and information,” he said, adding, “There are many brands out there selling prospects on their unique products and solid numbers, but that can quickly become white noise to audiences.”

RainTree’s emphasis on engaging prospective franchisees through a variety of channels with content that is relevant and relatable is a key driver in the company’s successful client deliverables. “We have invested heavily into what we believe is an industry-leading CRM that focuses on engagement and authenticity,” Dowling said. Franchisors that prioritize understanding and catering to the growing digital-centric generation exploring franchise ownership are best equipped to attract and retain leads.