Franchisee aims to bring fast food alternative to RI
Jason Mazzarone’s company recently sold out of Long Island franchises. Now Mazzarone is ready to introduce acai bowls to Rhode Island.
Mazzarone is the CEO of SoBol, a health food chain that specializes in acai bowls, a smoothie served in bowls and made with fresh fruit and homemade granola. Their focus is bringing health food with clear nutritional value to local communities. The company currently has more than 20 locations on the East Coast, and is looking to expand, with the hope of opening ten locations in Rhode Island, with a specific focus on the Providence and Warwick areas.
A culinary school grad, Mazzarone discovered the acai bowl while surfing in California. When he returned to Long Island, he couldn’t find the meal he’d been eating on the West Coast. He decided to make it himself, first for his family, and then starting sales out of his family’s Italian Ice Shop on Long Island. It worked.
The first store opened in Sayville, N.Y. in November of 2014. Currently, the company is planning for a long life, with more than 20 locations fully operational in three states, and 40 more locations that have already been sold to open in the future, dotting the East Coast. The goal for the Rhode Island area is to have at least one location open within 12 months.
Mazzarone spent some time in the Westerly area and fell in love with the state. He said Thursday, “This seems like a logical place for us to continue our expansion.”
With that, it seems that acai bowls could be heading to the Warwick area, bringing jobs, and a new quick meal option to the market.
Acai bowls are seen as aimed at the millennial consumer, as they are health food based and photogenic. While Mazzarone describes their largest market as females ages 18-44, he feels that the product is wide ranging.
“We touch from age six to age 60, and anywhere in between.”
Acai is a small fruit that is native to the Amazon Rainforest. The fruit has superfood benefits and antioxidants that are said to be both anti-aging and energy boosting. SoBol utilizes frozen acai, strawberries, bananas, and soy to create their bowls, which are consistent from location to location. Mazzarone explains that the acai bowl is a fast, on the go product that is healthy and can be eaten for any meal, an alternative to the fast food options.
The company’s goal for Rhode Island is to open 20 units within five years. Each business would employ about 25 employees. Mazzarone is looking for passionate franchises, who are as focused on the brand, with a keen eye for customer service.
He explained, “Restaurant owners do have a leg up, but we’re looking for people who are passionate about our brand.”
That brand is something Sobol takes very seriously. They view their model as more of a “lifestyle brand” then a café chain, and work to make sure each franchise fits within their model. Mazzarone says his hope is that all franchise owners have a vision to expand the brand to be “the acai bowl brand”.
“We’re involved from step one to step one-thousand”, Mazzarone said, “We know what works, we’ve tried it, and we want to play off the success we’ve had.”
Franchise owners have the assistance of the company the whole way, from selecting a space, to utilizing a clear business plan, to the training that takes place at the corporate headquarters before opening. The franchise fee per location is $20,000, with the franchise term being 10 years. While Rhode Island is the next step, Mazzarone won’t immediately cross out expansion east of the Mississippi.
For now, Warwick could soon become the new home of a rising food trend.