Rick Green and his wife Keri are the proud owners of the TCBY self-serve frozen yogurt shop at the Arapahoe Marketplace in Greenwood Village Colorado (8547 East Arapahoe Road). Rick is a registered nurse while Keri is a licensed marriage and family therapist. The couple celebrated the store’s first anniversary this past July 1.
In addition to their self-serve frozen yogurt, the store has a great selection of cakes and pies, and they offer catering too, so any yogurt creation you can make in the store, they can bring to you.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What made you choose TCBY over all the other frozen yogurt franchises out there?
Rick Green (RG): Longevity, grew up with the TCBY brand, and of course, flavor and quality of product.
FC: Please describe the competitive landscape for frozen yogurt in your territory. How were you able to find a suitable location for your TCBY shop?
RG: Late summer 2010 was the start of a major self-serve yogurt explosion in the Denver Metro Area. Yogurtland pretty much started the trend of self-serve shops in Denver. Prior to Yogurtland opening their first shop, there were a few mom and pops scattered throughout the town, but nothing worth mentioning.
By summer 2011, the self-serve concept was taking Denver by storm. By the end of 2011, my contractor, Foothills Commercial Builders, had built 30 yogurt shops in town! Areas outside of Denver, such as Boulder, Broomfield, Golden, Arvada, Fort Collins, Greeley, Longmont, and Loveland, have seen their fair share of self-serve yogurt shops too. The towns I just mentioned are very far from my store’s location to be called competitors.
The real estate selection process was very difficult and time consuming. We first looked at area suburbs south of Denver such as Highlands Ranch and Castle Pines. After those two locations fell through, we sought out a lifestyle center further north on the Greenwood Village/Englewood border. In life, I believe everything happens for a reason.
Fortunately, on one random day, a real estate rep from Mrs.Fields Famous Brands mentioned Arapahoe Marketplace to me. The rep showed me some details on a map, and it looked appealing. Without wasting anymore time, I hustled and set up an appointment to look at the soon to be vacant space. It was like love at first site.
For starters, there used to be a TCBY at this center in the mid to late 90’s. The center is located a block from I-25, which is a no brainer for accessibility. The center houses some of the biggest brands in the retail marketplace such as Starbucks, Office Depot, Jamba Juice, Red Robin, Subway, Five Guys, and Garbanzo’s Mediterranean Grill. In the next few weeks or so, I drove by the center at random times to check out the volume of business. It was amazing. I knew at this point my days of searching were over.
FC: What were some of the most challenging aspects of the pre-opening process?
RG: Finding a location was challenging, but in the end it all worked out. Negotiating the letter of intent and lease agreement were extremely challenging for me and my wife.
FC: What are your day-to-day responsibilities as a TCBY franchise owner?
RG: I manage and handle the daily operations of the business, from cleaning the yogurt machines to employee issues to mopping the bathroom floor. My wife handles all the hiring, scheduling, marketing, and financial aspects of the business.
FC: How many employees do you have? Do you have any tips for finding, training, scheduling, and keeping good employees?
RG: We currently have six employees. When we first opened the doors of the business back in June/July 2011, we hired 9 employees. We had no idea what to expect. Unfortunately, some employees have resigned and some had to be let go during the past year. The female employees we’ve hired, for the most part, are reliable, honest, and hard working. What more could you ask for?
We’ve found that the best method of training is hands-on training. Bar none. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of manuals and documents for new hires to read prior to starting at TCBY.
One way to retain good employees is to offer them incentives and bonuses. We have two managers who are going to see a popular country artist this month as a thanks from us for doing a good job. We’re constantly handing out gift cards for a job well done to places such as Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and gas stations. Of course, verbal positive feedback is another way we honor our employees. Give credit where credit is due!
FC: Is your TCBY store meeting your goals and expectations?
RG: I would have to say yes, especially for a couple with no restaurant/retail experience, on our first year in business in a super competitive frozen yogurt market.
FC: What are some of your biggest expense items in running the store? What is your approximate food and paper costs as a percentage of gross sales?
RG: Our biggest expenses include rent, labor, product, and electricity. Our electric bill averages about $600 in the winter months and close to $1000 in the spring/summer months. It’s not cheap to run a self-serve yogurt shop. No way, no how. Our goal for cost of goods is 20-30%.
FC: How would you describe the relationship between TCBY and its franchisees? Are you satisfied with the level of training and support you’ve received from corporate?
RG: I seem to have a great relationship with TCBY. I have no problem sending email after email on a daily basis to express my feelings or to get an answer on something. I also have no problems picking up the phone to call corporate on any outstanding issue or problem. Corporate is easy to reach. I’ve even sent personal emails to the CEO on occasion.
Corporate has certainly provided the franchisee with plenty of support and training. I really felt the 2 week training process in Salt Lake City was extremely useful. TCBY also provides on-going support at all levels of the operation, which certainly helps to streamline things a little better on a daily basis.
FC: Has your business been affected by TCBY’s recent licensing deal to sell packaged frozen yogurt in stores such as Walmart, Target, and other national grocery chains?
RG: At first, I wasn’t happy about the decision, but I can’t complain as my business hasn’t been affected by TCBY’s ability to sell product in nationwide retail and wholesale centers. I still believe customers love coming into the store, for that overall “experience.” On another note, it’s a marketing tool for our own store. The products put the TCBY name out there for the world to see.
FC: What are your thoughts on the seasonal nature of the frozen yogurt business? What are you doing to manage this?
RG: I try not to think of TCBY as a seasonal business, like some frozen dessert businesses such as Rita’s Water Ice which operates half the year. Like I tell people that ask me this question all the time, we still are selling yogurt when its snowing outside, just not as much as on a hot summer day.
Luckily, Denver doesn’t have such harsh winters as some other spots in the country. Denver is very fortunate to have 70F days in December and January, believe it or not. But don’t get me wrong, there is still a winter here. When winter strikes, we really try to set foot outside the store and promote the brand to the best of our ability. We really try hard to establish and maintain relationships with local businesses and schools. We try to kick up our catering business and fundraising business a few notches too.
FC: If you were to start all over again, would you do anything differently?
RG: Oh yes. I would buy a free standing building for drive through service. I would possibly also offer hand dipped TCBY frozen yogurt. I would also design the store to accommodate one or two more yogurt machines. Some days, 12 flavors is not enough!
FC: How do you see the frozen yogurt industry evolving over the next few years?
RG: Great question. The frozen yogurt industry is here to stay, no doubt, but only the strong will survive. There will certainly be a lot of weeding out in the industry over the next 2-4 years. There has to be, unless money grows on trees for some of these franchisees, especially the independent variety.
You have to remember one thing: there are only so many manufacturers out there that produce frozen yogurt, which is why so many yogurt shops TASTE alike. So the only way to differentiate yourself from others is to up the ante with outstanding decor, provide superb customer service; basically offer something someone else down the street cannot.
Many folks out there didn’t think TCBY was still alive, and discounted their ability to persevere. The truth is, TCBY is alive more than ever. TCBY is building more stores each and everyday. Thirty one years strong, how can you compete? There is no stopping the once sleeping giant.