(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: Interview with TCBY Franchisee Rick Green
This week, Franchise Chatter talks with a TCBY franchisee in Greenwood Village, Colorado, about running a successful franchise and the challenges of regaining name recognition for one of the country’s oldest brands in the frozen yogurt industry.
Following a Legend
When Rick Green decided to open a frozen yogurt franchise, he didn’t have to look to the West Coast for inspiration. Having grown up on the East Coast in the 80s, Green says he stuck close to home: “TCBY was what I knew best.”
TCBY is over thirty years old, which makes it fairly prehistoric compared to the startups of the past few years. Legend has it that after its founder, Frank Hickingbotham, tasted frozen yogurt in a restaurant in Texas, he had exclaimed, “This can’t be yogurt!” He went on to open his first store, named in honor of his surprised remark, in Arkansas in 1981. When a competitor with a similar name — I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt — brought a lawsuit against the company, TCBY retained only the acronym, which now stands for “The Country’s Best Yogurt.”
Green visited many fro-yo stores when he first began exploring the concept, and was “quite impressed by the volume” of business they were doing. But he only really researched TCBY. “The TCBY name was critical” in Green’s decision. “It’s one of the best products out there and it has brand loyalty.”
Green had been successful as a registered nurse in Philadelphia, but felt it was time for a change. “I hadn’t burned out,” he says. “I just wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to be the decision maker.” He approached TCBY, which put him “in touch with the parent franchisors and about a dozen other franchisees.” (One in particular, who has owned a TCBY in Denver’s airport for 25 years, has become a real mentor to Green, taking him “under his wing.”) The franchising process was “a streamlined thing,” and soon Green had his own store in Greenwood Village, Colorado, where he moved with his wife, Kerry.
Selling Smiles: Marketing and Outreach
Unlike older TCBY stores, Green’s is self-serve. Another franchisee approached the company in 2010, and convinced it to change over some of its stores to the self-serve model, which has proved successful. Although only the company’s hand-scoop stores are licensed to sell certain TCBY products, such as beriyo smoothies and cappuccino chillers, the self-serve locations can sell its cakes and pies, which are an advantage in a field where almost no competitors serve those items. Cakes and pies are also key in catering, which has been profitable for Green.
The Greenwood Village store is located in a “large corporate and commercial setting,” an area home to many offices. “It would take me the next five years to visit each and every one of them,” Green says. And that’s just what he’s been doing to market his frozen yogurt and get the TCBY name out on the street. Green and his staff go to local businesses and deliver “Street Treats,” free three-ounce servings of yogurt. (Although no one has ever yet turned down one of these free treats, Green always makes sure to call beforehand.) Many such recipients eventually seek out Green’s TCBY catering service for office parties and events.