CEO’s Out, Hemp’s In as Edible Founder Calls For ‘Grit’

In July 2018, Edible Arrangement’s founder deemed its first outside CEO, Mike Rotondo, “perfect for the role.” Now Rotondo’s out, Tariq Farid has reclaimed the chief executive’s job and he’s taking the brand known for fresh fruit bouquets down new paths, including hemp-farming and cannabis.

Rotondo, formerly chief executive at Tropical Smoothie Café, told Franchise Times in 2018 he would be taking Edible into the QSR space, and begin offering fruit-based treats like Dipped Fruit and Froyo Fruit Blends, evolving from the sole focus on fresh-cut fruit arrangements customers send for gifts, at $30 to $40 or even $75 each.

“We have to get sales back on track. Comp sales are low at Edible. I’m all about sales and growth,” Rotondo said at the time, adding he planned to push for “a reversal of where we are. We’ve got to reverse this trend and get back to positive and then some.”

It was not to be. Systemwide sales declined 10.3 percent last year at Edible, according to the Franchise Times Top 200+. In an interview today, Farid said they’ve closed about 150 stores with plans for 50 more closures and resales, and he expects sales for 2019 to decline about 5 percent.

“Mike is a great guy and the whole objective was to transform our business, which I’ve been working on this for a while, to make our stores a destination,” Farid said. “It really didn’t work out. The short and honest answer is, Mike struggled with it. The business started to go in the wrong direction. The mission that he had of the storefronts didn’t bear any fruit.”

Farid isn’t the first founder who announced plans to step away but then reversed course, but he disagreed with those who said he wasn’t ready to hand over the reins. “I’m so ready. Tag you’re it. I want to relax now,” he said he felt at the time. “It doesn’t get any better in franchising than getting in the Hall of Fame” at the International Franchise Association annual convention in early 2018, when he first talked to Rotondo about taking over as CEO.

“I’ve gotten a lot more involved in the last two months. You can’t have two quarterbacks running a company or running a team,” he said. Edible announced the management changes October 30.

Farid is in the midst of a major revamp of Edible Arrangements, known for its fresh-fruit bouquets. “All our stores will be known as Edible, and we’re calling them gift and treat stores,” with smoothies and other treats moved to the front of the stores, along with space in which staffers can arrange cookies, dipped fruit and other items at $10 or $15 to make gifting more of a year-round event, all available for delivery in an hour.

“It’s a total transformation of the brand. It’s more the Domino’s of gifting,” he said about his vision. He also plans to launch a second franchise, Incredible Edibles, selling products infused with CBD or cannabis oil derived from hemp. We’ll have more on all the changes in an upcoming story in Franchise Times.

Change won’t come easily. “It’s easier to launch a new brand than to transform a brand. Now I have a thousand franchisees to convince and these are small-business owners,” Farid said. “That whole transformation, of course it’s scary, it’s difficult, it requires investment. And the biggest thing it requires is grit.” Source: