Created in 2006, Yogurtland is the first national frozen yogurt brand to empower customers with the ability to serve themselves, and revolutionized the now ubiquitous self-serve, pay-per-ounce model seen nationwide. An industry pioneer in premium-quality frozen yogurt, Yogurtland’s fundamental “You Rule” philosophy allows customers the freedom to create their own servings from a choice of 16 original sweet and tart flavors made with real ingredients, and more than 35 toppings.
Headquartered in Anaheim, California, Yogurtland is one of the nation’s top frozen yogurt brands, with 185 locations in the U.S., Mexico, and Guam.
This is my second time to interview Larry Sidoti, VP of Development for Yogurtland. The first Q&A we did over a year ago still gets a lot of views to this day, so when I decided to do this series of follow-up interviews, Larry’s name was near the top of my wishlist.
This is for all you frozen yogurt fans out there — and I know there are many of you! Enjoy.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Yogurtland turned 6 this past February. What are some of the key milestones in your company’s history to date, and over the past year?
Larry Sidoti (LS):
- First off, despite our rapid growth, we have built and maintained a brand of high values and integrity. A brand with heart and soul.
- We have survived and thrived in Los Angeles for 6 years. L.A. is one of the toughest markets in the country and a strong indicator of a brand’s ability to succeed across the nation.
- We have 185 stores open. Our most recent opening was in Ocean City, New Jersey.
- In 2011, we opened our first airport location in Anchorage, Alaska. Los Angeles International will be coming soon.
- In 2012, we opened our first military base site on Camp Pendleton.
- In 2012, we opened our first two stores in the Chicago market, with 5 more slated for this year.
- Our Yogurtland stores continue to generate the highest average unit volumes in the industry.
- We have complete control and ownership of our product line.
- We continue to build a strong infrastructure loaded with experienced and extremely talented people.
- We will be occupying our new 18,000 square foot corporate support center in Irvine, California this June. This exciting and cutting edge facility will feature a state of the art lab, a Yogurtland store, upgraded training facilities, and many value-added extras that are consistent with our company culture.
- We are most proud of the corporate and brand culture we have created. Built on trust, humility, honesty, and integrity, our culture is the cornerstone of our company and the foundation of our success. This is a culture of shared values and beliefs that spans throughout the organization and is reflected in every facet of our business. Our culture incorporates our core values with a spirit of continuous improvement and collaboration.
FC: How much has Yogurtland grown in size and revenues over the past year? In what regions of the county have you seen the most impressive growth?
LS: We currently have 185 stores operating, with 2011 revenues surpassing $100 million. Our franchise community continues to grow with the addition of really great franchise partners. And we have new international deals in place.
FC: How are you strengthening your corporate infrastructure to support the rapid growth of the system?
LS: Our corporate infrastructure has increased by 50% since January. We have strengthened every department including Franchise Development, Operations, Marketing, Finance, Product Development, R&D, and Admin.
Our team is focused on delivering great support to our franchise community in every area. We strive to create and maintain a culture of continuous improvement, trust, and collaboration.
We set the tone at the corporate level while cascading these ideals throughout our franchise community. This has translated into operational excellence and high performance, consistent with our brand promise of delivering the highest quality products and excellent guest service at the best value.
We firmly believe that to ensure long term sustainability, we have to cultivate and maintain a systemwide culture driven by shared values and beliefs. Everyone within our organization is extremely passionate about the brand and driven to deliver the highest level of support and service. We provide best in class support to our customer base (our franchise partners), and in turn, our franchise partners continue to exceed the expectations of our guests.
Our expansion is focused on two key elements: the right franchise partners and the right real estate selections. As you know, nothing derails a brand faster than the wrong decisions in those two key areas. We have the right pieces in place as well as a solid evaluation process to ensure we make the right decisions on both fronts.
Our Yogurtland Operations and Training team has been greatly enhanced with experienced and passionate professionals. This group is the backbone of the company and provides the platform for our ability to comfortably and responsibly expand both corporately, as well as with franchise partners. Our Operations team is built to provide superior support and coaching to our franchise community.
FC: One of Yogurtland’s greatest strengths is product development. Do you have anything new on the product development front in terms of new flavors, new types of yogurt, or even new product categories to complement your frozen yogurt line?
LS: Unfortunately, I cannot divulge too much here. Our Product Development team has all kinds of special surprises for our loyal customers this year, including our first and very special non-dairy sorbet launching early this summer. I can assure you, our guests will find it to be best in class and another amazing creation by Yogurtland’s own mad scientist.
We continue to invest heavily in product development. We are going to continue to improve and drive the quality bar even higher while pushing the envelope to churn out creative and exciting flavors and products. I really can’t say enough about just how talented our Product Development team is, but I know their efforts are on display with every cup of frozen yogurt served.
FC: What marketing initiatives have proven to be the most effective in establishing the Yogurtland brand?
LS: One of our most successful campaigns ever was our joint partnership with Sanrio (Hello Kitty). Stay tuned for Part 2 which will be launching this summer. The campaign will be bigger and better than last year, and full of surprises.
Our biggest marketing vehicle is our Yogurtland stores. Our stores continue to attract huge crowds in every market we land. Great execution at the store level with clean stores, excellent guest service, and the best tasting product continues to draw the attention of aspiring entrepreneurs looking for a great opportunity.
Another great marketing vehicle is our loyal customer base. Our customers are awesome ambassadors for our brand. They spread the word and tell their stories of great experiences at their favorite Yogurtland store.
We have several new and exciting marketing initiatives coming but again, I can’t release details just yet.
To read the second part of my interview with Larry Sidoti, please click here.