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Yogurtland’s growth in a densely populated field continues to attract franchisees even in Los Angeles, where competition is fierce. I spoke with seasoned franchisee Paul Gill about how he’s been making a go of his seven open locations in the San Fernando Valley.
Gill wasn’t a wide-eyed novice in the world of franchising when he opened his first Yogurtland store just two and a half years ago. The vice president of CG Investments and an owner of numerous Subway franchises, he’s worked in the fast food industry “just about everywhere,” including at McDonald’s, for years.
“I did my homework,” Gill says about his decision to join the almost 200-strong ranks of Yogurtland franchisees. The numbers looked like they’d add up, and his first store was successful “right off the bat.” Five of his seven stores have followed suit, with only a couple locations lagging behind in their early stages. But they’re all doing fine now.
Best Location Features: Visibility and Good Neighbors
The “visibility factor” is paramount in choosing a location. For Gill, corner locations are ideal because they’re easily seen by drivers and are especially attractive to passers-by. “They look through the plate glass windows and see it’s packed. Then they want to come in, they want to belong.”
Having good neighbors is also key. “Burger chains, box stores, grocery stores, fitness centers” — these are all great silent (unwitting) partners because they help create density and scores of potential customers. Setting up near schools is ideal, because it’s “young people” who are Gill’s most avid customers.
The most important thing is “not to be hidden.” If you have “a captive audience,” say, in a hospital, then you can be a bit tucked out of sight. Otherwise, go as visible as possible. Gill is particularly happy if a location has a patio, as that in and of itself is a great attractor.
Even certain competitors, such as Starbucks, are desirable as neighbors. “Starbucks’ customer and my customer are exactly the same. I’m fighting with them for that dollar,” Gill says. Customers “are either going to want a frappuccino or a frozen yogurt” — not both. But Gill actually likes the challenge of having to seduce his customers away from rivals for their frozen-treat attention.
Give It Away
“Free samples” is the first and last word in marketing for Gill. He does a lot of direct mail, with offers for free 8-ounce servings, and gives out $5 gift certificates and free T-shirts at his grand openings. But on a day-to-day basis, employees approach customers to ask them to try a free sample. So Gill is especially happy that Yogurtland creates two new flavors every couple months. “It keeps customers on the hook. They’re curious and excited” because there’s always something new to try.