Things used to be so simple. When it came to franchise locations serving delicious frozen refreshments your choices were pretty much Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins. They were really the dominant players in the 60s and 70s.
Dairy Queen is considered to be one of the early pioneers of food franchising, starting with 10 stores in 1941. By 1947 there were 100 stores. Their soft serve formula was developed in 1938 by J.F. “Grandpa” McCullough with some help from his son, Alex McCullough.
The Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlors started as separate ventures from Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins. Burt opened Burt’s Ice Cream Shop and Irv Robbins opened up Snowbird Ice Cream in Glendale, Ca. They were actually brother-in-laws, and merged their operations in 1953.
In the 1980’s, frozen yogurt appeared on the scene in force, and made a strong showing. TCBY was the dominant player back then, and at one time, had 1,582 franchises across the US. Times were pretty good. Mickey Rooney was the pitchman, and reportedly the folks at TCYB headquarters were getting almost 500 franchise inquiries a week.
By 1990, Baskin-Robbins began offering frozen yogurt, and that impacted the TCYB franchises. Angry TCBY franchisees who were supposedly losing market share sued corporate, and although the lawsuits were pretty much thrown out, it hurt the brand. Angry investors even got in on the action. There was even a celebrity on the TCBY Board Of Directors for a time; Hillary Clinton. (1985-1992)
Let’s fast-forward to 2010. Frozen yogurt is hot. I know that’s an oxymoron, but it’s true. Frozen yogurt franchise concepts are popping up everywhere. Let’s see who the players are now, and how they are innovating.
- Red Mango, out of South Korea, is credited with being the pioneer of the “tart” variety of frozen yogurt. The corporate website states that their product is gluten-free, and contains no corn syrup.
- Since 1987, the 60 or so tasti D lite locations have been keeping New Yorkers satisfied, with their low-calorie frozen yogurt. In 2007, a company led by Jim Amos, who helped Mail Boxes Etc. grow into a 5000-unit franchise chain, is hoping to open 500 tasti D lite franchises across the US.
- PinkBerry has developed somewhat of a cult-like following. Their hand-crafted seasonal flavors and are all “light and refreshing, tart and tangy.” Fresh fruit and exotic toppings from around the world attract an eclectic crowd.
- Spoon Me is a young, green-focused frozen yogurt franchise, where everything is recycled and biodegradable (including the spoon) Spoon Me seems to be intent on targeting a younger crowd. Expect a high-energy experience, with loud music included at no extra charge.
- TCBY is back in the game, this time as a part of Mrs. Field’s Famous Brands, who purchased TCBY in 2000. In addition to frozen yogurt, smoothies, frozen coffee drinks, and cakes and pies are being offered.
I’m anxious to see how these five frozen yogurt franchise concepts will do, as spring and summer approach. As a matter of fact, I’ll be trying to put them all to the taste test. Will you?
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Joel Libava, The Franchise King,® is the president of Franchise Selection Specialists Inc, a franchise consulting firm that specializes in helping prospective franchise owners all over the US find great opportunities in franchise ownership. Joel discusses all aspects of franchising on The Franchise King Blog, is quite active in social media, and serves as the community promotions director for Small Business Trends.