An exclusive interview of Mijo Alanis, CEO of  Beyond Juicery. Alanis is sharing with us the insights of his business and the trends affecting the health food service industry in 2021 and beyond.

Lee Kantor: Tell us about Beyond and Eatery. What are you doing for folks?


Mijo Alanis:  Well, we're a smoothie juice cell in a rap franchise. We started back in two thousand and five, gain some traction right around 2014. We started building the franchise model and in twenty eighteen we opened our first franchise. We have five corporate locations and we've doubled in size for the last three years. And yesterday we opened our twenty ninth location. We have 12 more under construction.


Lee Kantor: Now how'd you come up with the concept?


Mijo Alanis: Boy that's a story that started way back when I first started working. I started off washing dishes when I was 15 years old and I quickly learned what people did and did not like to eat. I would see it in the bus stops. Fast forward a. Throughout my career, I always wanted the next guy's job from prep, cook to cook to manager to GM, worked every aspect of the restaurant business, bartenders, server, the guy that came in and cleaned. But I. I started noticing around twenty five to right around nineteen ninety nine, two thousand, I started seeing people throwing away their hamburger buns and French fries. I noticed it in the bus stops. And I went to the customer and I asked, why are you throwing it away? Because back then we were filling the plate with French fries. I was in the bar industry and they wanted to substitute a salad or they were just trying to eat healthier. And that concept didn't really hit me until I was taking a mountain. And we've come down from the mountain and I would go we'd go to a juice bar. We were in Arizona at the time and I would we'd go to the juice bar and I thought it was fantastic. I like the way it made me feel. And I come back home to Michigan and I'm driving up one of the major arteries. And I realized there wasn't a place to buy a banana. There wasn't a place that if I wanted a quick salad for lunch or a banana or a smoothie or juice was not available. And that's when the idea was born.


Lee Kantor:  So now a lot of kind of healthy eating places and drinking places are popping up, what what is separating you guys?


Mijo Alanis: So for for us, we we work every day on clean products, we make our own salad dressings, we manufacture our own juice, we don't have any preservatives in it, were clean as we possibly can get.


Lee Kantor: Now, is is that a kind of a corporate culture thing? Is that you personally? Is that how you live?


Mijo Alanis: Yes, well, so that's funny you should say that I think it's the way that a lot of us want to live, that they want to have those options. And when I have two young kids and when it's time to eat and we want to decide where we want to go, it's not always to where we want to go. But there's always that option. And that's what we consider ourselves as having that option for people when they want to eat better. You can go to our place and have something that's not so healthy, you something in our world where healthy food meets quality.


Lee Kantor: And then so the menu is it changes every season based on what's available, like how do you manage the kind of availability of fresh and clean ingredients,


Mijo Alanis: Kale, that that is a challenge. We have a quarterly offering that comes out. Our core menu stays the same. But we we run a new a new seasonal item every quarter.


Lee Kantor: Now, are you finding that the public is actually kind of investing in their own health in this way? Or is it something that people say, yeah, I want to eat healthy, but they never really end up eating healthy?


Mijo Alanis: I think that's two fold. I think when we look at our kids today from the ages of 10 to 15, I think that they're more conscious of looking at the label more conscious. And I think in the next five years we're going to see that what's in our foods is going to be has to be more transparent than ever.


Lee Kantor: And what's an example of something that isn't as transparent as maybe people think it is?


Mijo Alanis: When you're talking like salad dressings, how how are they manufactured, what's inside the salad dressing? Is it clean? Are they using preservatives?


Lee Kantor: And that is that something that you find that maybe is frustrating for you, since you are kind of going this extra step of trying to be as clean as you can? Is that a lot of maybe bigger brands that have more resources are trying to pretend to be kind of healthy and clean, but in actuality, they may not be really living up to that standard.


Mijo Alanis: Yeah, so, you know. I believe that once you try the product, you taste it, they don't know they don't know why they come back, they just know that they like it because there's this fresh taste. There's a fresh feel from the design of the restaurant to your experience inside the store. And they don't know why, but they can they can tell the difference once they eat it.


Lee Kantor: Now, is the prospective franchisee, is it somebody who is this kind of fitness person that's living a healthy, wellness oriented life?


Mijo Alanis: That's a plus, but not necessarily what they do. Our franchisees recognize it, and like I said, I think that majority of the people here want the opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle. And that's where it came from for me, was I was in the bar restaurant industry. And when I wanted something unhealthy, it just wasn't there, you know, so I made something more as a hobby in the beginning that when I got done working out, there was a place that I could go to and get a smoothie or get a juice or have a salad for lunch. Fast food. Back then, nobody had a nobody had a salad on the menu, I think right around twenty three to twenty five as when Wendy's came out with their salad. It was the first time that I actually saw salad on a fast food menu.


Lee Kantor: And then where did you start. Where was this kind of born.


Mijo Alanis:Birmingham, Michigan.


Lee Kantor: So it was born and Michigan. And there wasn't a lot of kind of healthy choices around you. Like you were kind of.


Mijo Alanis: Oh, so when I opened, it was I think I had 20 customers coming in and I thought I made the biggest mistake in my life because that came from the restaurant bar industry where people come in and they don't have one, they have one after another. And when they come to eat, they order an appetizer. They bring four people. So imagine my sales when somebody comes in about four dollars smoothie back then and I only had 20 customers throughout the entire day, I made the biggest mistake of my life. What I did realize was I had to get the product into people's mouths in order to get the product in your mouth. Did anything and everything I possibly could. I put in a frame out on the sidewalk and I killed it, twisted it. So the only way that they could turn was towards the door. So as they were walking down, they had to actually turn towards the door and as they turned towards the door, we were there with samples. Give it a try. Here you go. Before, you know, we started getting the kids and we call them soccer moms and then the business people and they'd be walking in and it was it was something new that you haven't actually had anywhere else at that time, especially in our area. It was it was busy in the Sunshine State and on the coast, but not in the Midwest.


Lee Kantor: Now, do you partner with other businesses in the community or other organizations in the community? Is that part of how you go to market?


Mijo Alanis: So that is a strategic plan of ours. We love partnering with established businesses. Back in the beginning, we had smoothies on our menu named after the businesses that were patronizing us.


Lee Kantor: So is that part of the kind of standard operating procedure for a franchisee is you tell them to kind of immerse themselves in the local community, maybe partner with some fitness organizations or some schools or high schools or teams you got?


Mijo Alanis: There shouldn't be a reason why any kid that goes to school in your territory doesn't get a free smoothie when school starts. There shouldn't be a gym membership that doesn't get a free society for signing up. There shouldn't be a kids swim club, soccer team, baseball team. That's that you're not part of. I tell the franchisees, tell your intel you can't answer your phone anymore. You should be giving out your cell phone to everybody. That's I think that's the number one thing that actually differentiates us from other brands, is that we want you to be part of the community and you need to be part of the community. And when it comes time like there is no other choice, it is us.


Lee Kantor: Now, is that prospective franchisee or are they kind of is this their main business or is this kind of a complementary brand and a portfolio of brands?


Mijo Alanis: So we have a mix and match that. We have some that's actually exited other brands and started building. Building their business inside of ours, we have one offs that they bought, they love the brand and they bought it, and they're the person that's actually behind the counter. We have we sold Ohio. Ohio was 20 stores and they were a big company and they're building the brand and five stores per year, actually opening one tomorrow. Green, Green, Ohio.


Lee Kantor: And so it's a combination, so you don't have a preference, you just need somebody that really kind of believes in the culture and the mission and really wants to serve healthy food and drinks to their community.


Mijo Alanis: It's it's being there and being the face of the business and having a good operator that is going to smile. We've I like to say that we've we've done it over the past 15 years. We've done all the work to make sure the menus correct. The flavor profiles are correct. The pricing is correct. We've got the labor in line. And your job is to execute the plan and take care of the guests.


Lee Kantor: And how do you see kind of growth coming now as we come out of this pandemic? Is it are you guys pretty aggressively expanding?


Mijo Alanis: So when the when the pandemic kills? I remember sitting in the office and by the way, that I can describe it is we were on a seven forty seven and it was heading straight to the ground and. We were debating on cutting labor, cutting corporate overhead, cutting like we could see, couldn't see the other side, and my director of operations came in and said, Hey, model, that goes completely against our core values, like we do what others won't. And we should be thinking in the opposite way. And I said, you're absolutely right. We didn't cut anybody. We we broke up into groups, we broke up into pots and we weathered the storm. I took a look at before we cast every single Sunday and decided to guarantee the employees their their wage for that time, set up meetings, got closer with our vendors. I remember I remember at one point my mainline distributor came in and I said, how is everybody else doing? He said, there is nobody else. Migiro, you're my only client. Same thing with the produce company. We were able to pivot and switch. We moved app usage completely through the roof. We created we listen to the customer. I have people calling customers the top 10 percent of our customers every day, asking them what they want, what they need, if there's anything we can do for them. We expanded our delivery. We created curbside for us. We actually put a little grocery store because we had all the products from lemons to oranges to tortillas, cheeses, meats.


Mijo Alanis: At one point we actually had toilet paper. We realized that people were at home and the kids were driving him crazy. So we actually made we call them Kizzire in home smoothie kits where they can pick them up from the store. We'll deliver them to your house. And you gave your kid an activity to do. There was coloring books we sell sold. We realize the moms were stressed out so we actually created a charcuterie kit. We had eleven versions of that circulatory kit that we sold over the course of the year was probably our grand slam that Friday nights. The moms going to have it delivered to their house or family because we were all in pods at that time. And I also have somebody else call the franchisee's every day, and we had somebody else call in our employees and our general managers walking them through a. Situation that none of us have been through, but just let them know that we're there for them and if there's anything that they need, that we we would do it. And I knew that we get to the other side of this. We're going to have more opportunity than we can handle. And that's where we're at right now, is we have opportunity and we're building the infrastructure that we're in. Two states now just left the meeting where they'll be a third state here shortly. And our three year goal is to be in eight states. And it's not if it's it is going to happen.


Lee Kantor: So now, if somebody wants to learn more, have a more substantive conversation about this opportunity with you or somebody on the team with the website


Mijo Alanis: On the website.


Lee Kantor: Good stuff. Well, congratulations on all the success. You're doing important work and we appreciate you answering Franchise Radio X Mag’s questions.