Philip Patent is president and chief operating officer of a pair of synergistic franchise eateries — FC Juice Partners LLC and Las Vegas Coffee Investors LLC.
He has been in the restaurant industry for years, serving in leadership roles with Cafe Tostino’s and Lyons Resturants before joining Jeffrey Fine’s team.
Fine, a third-generation Las Vegas native, is owner and CEO of LEV restaurants. Its portfolio includes Jamba Juice and Coffee Bean along with Lobster Me, the Daily Kitchen, and the I love Burger brand. He brought Patent on board in 2000 originally to work in territory development.
Patent’s knowledge and expertise have helped to establish Jamba Juice and the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf franchises throughout Las Vegas and into parts of California.
Q. How did you decide to choose Jamba Juice as a franchise?
A. Jeffrey Fine, the owner of our company, is very focused on health and wellness, and good-for-you beverages. Jamba Juice is actually the premium brand within this segment. So Jeffrey directed me to see if we could secure the franchise rights for the Las Vegas market. We ended up reaching out to Jamba Juice corporate. It took about a year. We were able to purchase the seven corporate stores located here in the Las Vegas Valley. And we now are up to 12 here in Las Vegas. We have nine that we own and operate in the San Fernando Valley in California as well as Ventura County.
Q. How did you see Jamba Juice fitting into the Las Vegas market?
A. Jamba Juice is a health and wellness brand. We believe Las Vegans are looking for good-for-you products in a fast casual atmosphere. What makes Jamba Juice special is we’re world renowned for our smoothies. But what many people don’t recognize is that over the years Jamba Juice has expanded the health and wellness platform, adding fresh premium juices and well as acai bowls. So people are coming to us in the mornings for the acai bowls (and) the fresh oatmeal bowls.
Q. Can or should a franchisee look to diversity by mixing brands or extending one brand?
A. Landlords like to lease larger spaces, so it enables our brands, which is the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf as well as Jamba Juice, to go after a larger footprint. That allows us to be in more places in the Valley because now we can go after a larger amount of square footage and be able to offer it to the Las Vegas market.
Q. As an executive, what key numbers do you track?
A. There are about 10 key numbers. The No. 1 measurement of any retail business is the amount of customer transactions per day and the average sale per day. Those would be the two most telling numbers, because if you’re not having a lot of people walk through your door, then you don’t have a healthy business. We’ve been very fortunate in that our two brands — the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and the Jamba Juice franchise — seem to resonate with the population and the members of our community. So we have a fairly representative number of daily transactions.
Q. Do you think efforts to raise the minimum wage would help or hurt your operation?
A. First thing, there’s really not much we can do about that. We historically have paid above minimum wage, and as far as I’m concerned, the market tells us what we have to pay. So we will generally pay whatever the market dictates in order to get the proper labor force for our business.
Now, I can say overall, that mandating a higher minimum wage is not necessarily beneficial to the industry as a whole because it will cut down the amount of entry-level positions one can make available to students and people who are just starting in the labor force. But historically we’ve done very well because we pay what the market demands us to pay and we’re not reticent about it. As a result, our labor turnover within our franchise brands is well under industry levels.
Q. What business concerns do keep you up at night?
A. The biggest concern is for us to stay relevant, to be viewed as a resource to our community, to be able to provide our products in a wonderful, warm, inviting environment, and be able to provide a wonderful environment to attract great people to work within our stores. That is an ever-changing market. We work very hard and are very diligent trying to remain relevant, to remain attractive to our consumers and our labor base. Because really, without the right people on both sides of that counter, we don’t have a business.
Q. How do you keep the coffee section of the business “healthy”?
A. There are always competing studies within the coffee segment. This week there will be a segment that will say coffee promotes liver health; two weeks later there’ll be something to say the caffeine levels are high enough that it does not promote healthy living. On the other hand, you will then have a cancer study that will recognize that high levels of caffeine act as an antioxidant and are actually good for the human body. So that always goes back and forth.
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is quite special in the sense that the company buys the top 1 to 1½ percent of the green beans available. What that means is they’re purchasing 100 percent Arabica beans. Arabica beans have a significantly lower level of caffeine.
The Arabica beans have 1 to 1½ percent caffeine, fully caffeinated, vs. a Robusta which has 5 to 6 percent caffeine. So when they decaffeinate coffee, it can take out about 97 to 99 percent of the caffeine. When you talk about a Folger’s decaf coffee or Yuban coffee, if you compare it to a Coffee Bean fully caffeinated coffee, a lot of times our coffee has less caffeine than the grocer’s shelf coffee.
Q. What’s next for the company?
A. We’re looking to build one (or) two Jamba Juices over the next five years in the Las Vegas Valley. We were the first group to open a drive-through Jamba which is located at 215 and Rainbow at one of the entrances to the Arroyo Market Place, and we are looking for drive-through locations throughout the Valley. We believe we have identified a couple of those that we should be opening over the next year and a half to two years. We are continuing to grow, we are continuing to attract new customers and new employees, and helping the labor force here in the Valley.
Q. Do you see Jamba Juice being able to extend to serving into the late evening hours?
A. Yeah, and actually our business is probably higher after 4 p.m. at night than it is prior to 11 a.m. in the morning. A lot of that is because of the smoothie products that are looked at by people as a sweet treat. At the same time, there are more and more people becoming aware of the premium juice line. Our premium juice line is quite broad.