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Busy expansion push puts Nekter CEO Steve Schulze in travel mode
Nekter Juice Bar of Costa Mesa is undergoing a nationwide expansion push, putting CEO Steve Schulze in full travel mode of late. Schulze notes that company's "discovery days" for potential franchise partners across the country are selling out, and that franchising calls often count 40 people these days. The potential partners see a money maker.
Nekter reported a 28% increase in 2021 revenue compared to a year ago. The juice bar concept ranked No. 16 on the Business Journal's latest list of top QC-based restaurant chains in May 2021 by systemwide sales, with an estimated $87.7 million. Three years ago, it ranked No. 22
"All the expected growth from last year followed through, and we are set to keep going," Schulze told the Business Journal while waiting in the terminal for his next flight out of California. "It's the most invigorating part!" Founded in 2010, Nekter is known for its menu of acai bowls, specialty smoothies, and fresh juices.
55 New Openings
The juice bar company ended 2021 with 170 locations across the U.S., with plans to open an additional 55 spots in 2022. Nekter is poised to continue a brisk pace of openings over the next few years, having signed another 150 agreements with new and existing franchise partners in 2021.
The restaurant also grew its presence to 22 states over the past year, entering new markets such as Cincinnati and Seattle.
That said, "we maintained the strategy of controlled growth," Schulze said of the company's expansion plan. Nekter's average franchise investment fee range is $224,500 to $551,600, the company reports. Stores aver-age annual gross sales of $908,906, according to its website.
To cater each location to its environment, the Nekter team alters the menu offerings according to the local community. From considering non-traditional compact store spaces to working with local grocers for ingredients, Schulze said the company can remain true to the brand and simultaneously build a loyal customer base.
"The idea of health wellness
will never go out of style," Schulze said. He noted a "seismic shift" in the way people viewed health during the pandemic.
It launched its first retail line of detox juices, known as The Nekter Cleanse, to sell both in stores and grocers last year. Registration for its rewards app in 2021 increased by 29% over 2020, with total loyalty users soon to surpass the 1 million mark, reportedly a record number in the juice bar category.
New additions to some locations include window pick up and curbside storefronts. New food items will be slowly introduced as the company starts to implement ideas from 2021 brand data. These offer-ings highlight Schulze's plan to ultimately drop "Juice Bar" from the company name and move forward with simply Nekter.
"I remain completely upbeat on Nekter in 2022 and look forward to working with all of our franchise partners to introduce our wellness brand to more communities across the country," Schulze said. •