(Ambrosio’s note: Last week, we released our highly anticipated list of the Top Frozen Yogurt Franchises of 2013, where we identified Yogurtland as our top pick. Eager to get a second opinion from a frozen yogurt super-fan, I reached out to Fro-yo Girl, the author of a popular blog dedicated to all things frozen yogurt. Fro-yo Girl is an opinionated, passionate, and dedicated fro-yo customer and it’s a real treat to have her write this special piece for Franchise Chatter. Thank you, Fro-yo Girl!)
My quest for the best frozen yogurt started in December 2007. I’ve now visited close to 600 frozen yogurt stores across North America, mainly in California, which also happens to be the home of the most frozen yogurt stores and several major frozen yogurt franchises. Needless to say, I’ve consumed a great deal of frozen yogurt and I know what I like and dislike about frozen yogurt shops.
When it comes to evaluating frozen yogurt franchises from the perspective of a customer rather than as a potential investor, I look for the following:
- Consistency. When I go to different locations or go at different times, do I get the same high quality experience? I’d expect a chain to offer consistent quality and be better at machine maintenance. I look for cleanliness, the right frozen yogurt texture, and friendly, trained employees.
- Store Design and Marketing. Are they appealing? Are they distinctive? While design and marketing aren’t as important as frozen yogurt, I do see them as signs that the owner is willing to invest in the business and thinks the business will be around for longer than a few months. Marketing helps keep me engaged as a consumer. Specifically, does the shop have promotions, does it use social media effectively, etc.
- Frozen Yogurt. If the frozen yogurt is amazing, I can overlook the atmosphere. I like to see new flavors, particularly distinctive and proprietary flavors.
- Value. If a premium price is charged, does it feel worth it?
I’m sure there are many other worthy franchises out there but I only feel comfortable evaluating franchises that I’ve visited more than once.
My favorite frozen yogurt franchises in the U.S. are (in order of preference):
In my opinion, they set the standard for self-serve frozen yogurt. The look, the yogurt, and the marketing are all consistent and appealing. The value is really good too. I appreciate how they emphasize frozen yogurt quality and have fun promotions, including free frozen yogurt on National Frozen Yogurt Day, Yuletide Yumminess, and Flavor Quest. The collaborations with Sanrio and Tokidoki have given us the cutest frozen yogurt spoons ever to exist. They have the most new flavors. Yogurtland tends to fare well even in areas with many frozen yogurt shops.
The brand that started the frozen yogurt craze still has that special something that other frozen yogurt shops aspire to and celebrities flock to. The shops always look nice (especially those Philippe Starck chairs) and they’ve increased their new flavor introduction speed. The employees are friendly and well trained. I’ve never had a fro-yo texture issue at a Pinkberry. The frozen yogurt is very good and their toppings stand out.
When it comes to appealing to kids, no one can compare to Menchie’s. The locations are adorable with lots of temporary tattoos, stickers, coloring sheets, and more for the kiddies. They’re good about introducing new flavors regularly and having cute promotions. Their frozen yogurt is as tasty and the prices are higher than average but I think they can do well in the right areas, those with affluent young families.
4. Tutti Frutti
It’s the least consistent of the four with the weakest marketing but they have been improving their frozen yogurt and I like that they have soybean frozen yogurt, even though the flavors that I’ve tried have been too icy. The soybean frozen yogurt line is unique and they even have cute spoons. Prices are about average.
- While I have a fond place in my heart for Red Mango and like their marketing, I’m concerned by the number of locations that have closed.
- TCBY seems to be repeating their strategy from the mid 1990’s with a new look.
- The rebranded Golden Spoon is similarly positioned to TCBY as an ice cream substitute but I don’t think they’ll get too many new frozen yogurt consumers.
- FreshBerry’s frozen yogurt isn’t good and they seem to offer little marketing support.
- Cherry on Top seems average to me and lacking a unique vision.
- Yogen Fruz is unique but the mix-in style hasn’t caught on in the US though it might be better liked in other countries.
If I were evaluating franchises from the standpoint of the investor, I would consider additional factors like financial requirements, amount of support and training, fees, average store revenue, online reviews, how many stores have closed, and the experience of current and previous franchise owners. I also think larger chains have more resources and tend to do a better job with marketing and promotions.
For more on all things fro-yo, be sure to visit my blog: http://froyogirl.blogspot.com/