Q&A With Chris Gates, Coolgreens Franchisee
There are many different reasons why people decide to invest in a franchise. Whether they want to be their own boss, they’re passionate about a certain industry or they want to bring in additional income for their household, franchising can be the perfect answer.
Coolgreens – the healthy lifestyle eatery with “Food that Feeds Your Life” – began franchising in early 2019 after Tulsa resident Chris Gates sought an investment opportunity that brings in additional income while he and his wife still worked their full-time jobs.
Gates shared his perspective on owning a Coolgreens franchise and why he believes investing in the brand has been a fruitful decision for his household:
What first attracted you to the Coolgreens brand?
I have a background in technology and software sales. In the last eight years, I’ve been working in public transportation sales, and my wife is in product marketing. We began thinking that we wanted a source of additional income, so we looked into several franchising options. Initially, I wasn’t drawn to the restaurant industry because I figured it would be more hands-on than we were looking for. But then Coolgreens surfaced, literally right in front of me. I was reading the Sunday paper in Tulsa World and saw an article about the brand seeking franchisees in my market. I reached out to Robert Lee, Coolgreens’ CEO, and took a trip to Oklahoma City to learn more about the brand. I immediately realized Coolgreens offered a concept and product that I could get behind. The food was not only delicious, but I could really taste a difference in the level of freshness. Many brands say that their food is fresh, but at Coolgreens, it was crystal clear in how the menu looks, crunches and tastes. Plus, low entry costs, streamlined operations and a scalable model made it a no-brainer. My wife and I were impressed, and we decided to open the brand’s first franchise location while, at the same time, maintaining our full-time jobs.
What factors have contributed most to your restaurant’s success?
I am not sure there was one factor. We were excited to join a concept that reflected our personal desire to live more of a healthy lifestyle at a time where there were very few options available. We believed Coolgreens had the right solution. Since the brand was created in 2009, I thought the concept had already proven to be a success. And then since day one of opening our location, our customers have enjoyed our super fresh ingredients, house-made dressings and “hospitality hugs,” which we try to give to every single guest. While the pandemic definitely had an impact, we still were able to grow sales by 9% in 2020. As things improve, we are now seeing sales grow each and every week, and we are setting new sales records on a regular basis. So far in 2021, we have broken more than 25 sales records, and our overall sales are up over 20% compared to the same weeks in 2019. I am thrilled with the leadership we have and believe the brand is moving in a solid direction. I couldn’t be more bullish on the future and am excited to open additional locations in Tulsa.
How has your Coolgreens location performed financially?
Our store is profitable month-in, month-out, yielding 19% net income, after royalties, on average. Year One was challenging because we didn’t know what to expect. Shortly into our Year Two, the pandemic hit us hard, and I thought that might be the end of our business. But our guests kept coming back because Coolgreens is more than just a fast-casual restaurant: it is a healthy lifestyle eatery that fuels communities. We saw that the pandemic didn’t impact Coolgreens like other restaurants because people looked at their diet and decided to eat a little bit better. Systemwide, Coolgreens experienced an increase of 150% in online orders and online ticket averages were 20% higher than in-restaurant in 2020. People began increasing the size of their orders and treating Coolgreens as an important part of their family’s meal prep for the week. We’ve also seen delivery sales skyrocket at our location. It used to account for 10-15% of our revenue pre-pandemic, and now delivery has jumped to 30-45% of overall sales. Today, we are on very solid footing, and now we’re ready to make even greater strides in the future. Coolgreens has developed a new streamlined footprint that utilizes a drive-thru, and we’re very interested in using this model to expand our portfolio. We are actively looking for sites to build one to two additional Coolgreens here in Tulsa, and we’re excited to see even higher margins due to the increased efficiency that a drive-thru provides.
What makes Coolgreens stand out from its competitors?
Simple operations keep us and our employees happy day in and day out. Having loyal customers doesn’t hurt, either! Coolgreens is unique in that the concept focuses on improving the community. As natives, we know Tulsa well; we see it as our job to make it a better place to live by educating our community on the benefits of healthy living. Our customers are a huge part of our experience, and they have been very appreciative of this core piece of our brand. I’m a people person, and I love connecting with our guests and learning why they want to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Tulsa has proven to be a great market for this kind of concept as we’ve gained “regulars” who come in and order from us two to three times a week. I attribute this to two things: 1) our hospitality and 2) the quality of ingredients that we put into our products versus that of other fast-casual restaurants. Ultimately, Coolgreens has struck a chord: our guests love the total experience they get when they walk through our doors. Our strong financial results prove this point. We aspire to convey Coolgreens’ vision daily at our restaurant. We sow the seeds of health in our community through the relationships we build and the food we serve.
Every day, my wife and I are reminded of what a great decision it was for us to invest in Coolgreens.