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(Ambrosio’s note: Welcome to this week’s edition of Fro-Yo Files, an exclusive bonus series for Platinum subscribers of Franchise Chatter.)
Fro-Yo Files: VP Larry Sidoti on Yogurtland Franchises
Yogurtland has been making strides since starting out in California in 2006. In six years, it has built just under 200 stores in 17 states, Mexico, and Guam, with plans to keep expanding. Yogurtland has been heading steadily eastward, with a new location opening this month in New York City.
So is Yogurtland the frozen yogurt company to invest in? It seems that practically everyone today is asking whether — or when — the frozen yogurt wave will crash. Will Yogurtland be one of the few to ride it out?
I talked to Yogurtland’s VP Larry Sidoti about the company’s growth and its chances for surviving fro-yo’s uncertain future.
For Sidoti, Yogurtland has already had its trial by fire, and came out stronger for it. L.A. and New York are the most challenging locations for the food industry. If you can survive in either of these cities, he says, you can take your product and your model literally anywhere. Plus, Yogurtland came of age during a deep recession. There were no free passes.
But that’s just where many frozen yogurt businesses may get into trouble: They think it’ll be easy to get in the game, because the playing field seems limitless. But problems start when they don’t know what to expect when the competition heats up.
If you don’t have a long-term strategy for creating a sustainable business, Sidoti says, then you’re probably not going to make it for more than 12-18 months. You’ll be paying the same costs while your profit margins shrink. If you want your business “to have a long life, you can’t just be in it to turn a quick buck.”
Lacking a real game plan, many fledgling frozen yogurt companies simply copy more established ones. In Yogurtland’s case, lots of fro-yo businesses have adopted its self-serve model. Some shops have ripped off its “Yogurt Wall,” where flavors and toppings are listed. Some have even tried to use its name.
Copycatting may be one of the best indexes of a brand’s health. But others have responded to Yogurtland’s success by knocking it, saying it has inferior ingredients. “This is a myth the uneducated tell themselves to make themselves feel better,” Sidoti says. He insists Yogurtland uses only the highest-quality ingredients. They can do that because they use in-house suppliers, which keeps costs down. And if an ingredient turns out to cost more than expected, “corporate eats the difference.”
That kind of investment in quality seems to be paying off: according to Sidoti, Yogurtland now has the highest average unit volumes in the frozen yogurt industry.