More About Kauai…
It’s hard to believe that a company that has 48 outlets and now directly employs over 700 people was started as the result of discussions held in a tent in a papaya field on the island of Kauai. It was these humble origins that made the founders of Kauai so hungry to spread the message that “health food can taste good” to as many South Africans as possible.
Kauai opened its first store in 1996 in Cape Town. The founders’ approach to the task was straightforward: to prepare food they themselves loved to eat but couldn’t readily find anywhere in South Africa. One of their first creations was the now infamous Kauai smoothie ‘it is widely credited with starting the smoothie craze in our country!
Smoothies were complemented with a range of great tasting freshly made food, with the ingredients always left as close to nature as possible. The range now includes sandwiches, salads, wraps and snacks.
The real secret behind Kauai’s success is that they have perfected the art of making healthy menu items look and taste great and back this up with excellent service.
For the first six years after setting up the first outlet, Kauai’s four founders worked in the stores themselves, and on occasion continue to do so to this day. This hands-on approach helped them to understand, firstly, what customers wanted, secondly, what it would be like to be a franchisee. They also discovered first hand what happens to operating results if a location is wrong, or if costs are not kept in check. After all, there is no better way to get to know a brand and how to operate it than by working hands-on in the store!
The founders recall that when Kauai’s fifth store opened in Claremont in 1999, it was an instant success. This in spite of being located across the road from a major shopping centre whose management weren’t prepared to rent space to this relatively new and unproven brand. Whoever made this decision at the time, must have regretted it bitterly. Within months, Kauai was trading at twice the density experienced by some of the major quick service outlets located within the centre while paying a fraction of the rental the centre would have charged.
Kauai’s founders were delighted by their brand’s rapid development but they also recognised that to continue the hands-on approach to the running of each individual store would slow down further expansion. They decided there and then to sell a 49% share of their Claremont store to Alan Verwey who joined them as a working joint venture partner. Alan’s permanent presence at the store made an immediate impact and today, he operates a total of three stores located in close proximity to each other.
At present, Kauai continues to own most of the stores but the founders now see franchising and joint venture arrangements as a viable route to continued rapid expansion and are actively seeking suitable partners to join them in this quest.
For a first-hand impression of what it’s really like to be a Kauai joint venture partner or franchisee, watch out for the July edition of the whichfranchise.co.za newsletter. Click here to sign up for the free newsletter.