How to: Starting a self-serve frozen yogurt business / shop. Part 1
Frozen yogurt is tasty, healthy, and also a desert, or is it dessert? Just in case you don’t know, desserts have been around a couple thousand years (so have deserts) and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, with people more health conscious than ever, why not make it froyo? With live cultures, potential for organics, no sugar added and low/nonfat options – it’s the right choice. Opening a franchise frozen yogurt store or even your own concept is a great choice too, as long as you do your homework and follow a few proven techniques to ensure you end up successful. We have been researching frozen yogurt franchises and ma and pops for years at the frozen yogurt review, and here is what we feel to be the most important “ingredients” to owning a successful self-serve location:
- Great tasting product (duh, but you’d be surprised! – or maybe not?)
- Great location (we will give tips for finding good spots below)
- Good, no, GREAT atmosphere!
- Mediocre employees…NOOOT…Great Employees! (By the way, it’s your responsibility to train them to be great! We will go over that too if you can read that far)
- Um, social media and marketing, maybe? Depends on your intentions, and just how GREAT you are! We will also make suggestions – there are lots of free tips to succeed that worked great for Steve Jobs! Think newspapers, magazines, etc. Why not flatter an unknowing columnist and con, I mean convince them into writing an article on you!
So, this is a good place to start, we will go over these topics in paragraph form in order of bullet. At the end of it all we will go into even more detail on what and where to you will actually need in the store. These are just logistics and not as important as the concept, or “foundation”.
Great tasting frozen yogurt product:
Pretty self-explanatory, but cannot be said enough! Test as many different brands as you can, and pick one with great flavors, and plenty of them. You want the company to have at least 10 good flavors year round and then a variety of sorbets, seasonal, and low/nonfat and NSA (no sugar added) options. You also want to make sure the company has good distribution to your store so that you are not let down and run out of product. Good consistency is produced by good yogurt, a machine no matter what brand should produce good yogurt if the settings are correct. If the frozen yogurt is too icy it’s usually the setting on the soft serve machine, not the machine itself, or it could be bad product with no stabilizers or poor content. Anyways, don’t get a bad tasting yogurt in your store that leaves people with a bad aftertaste.
The better the location, the more visibility, the more foot traffic, the more sales. Here are some good tips: Make sure the sign is visible from the street, and if it’s a 4 way intersection make sure you are able to have a visible sign from each position a car will be stopped (all 4 directions, also make sure the sign portrays that you are frozen yogurt store). Be close to schools! Don’t underestimate the desire and manipulative ability of children; they will get their parents to take them for frozen yogurt after school or after soccer practice. High school kids will also want to go get a snack after school and hang out. Also make sure if possible that you are close to restaurants, movie theaters, nice places to walk, business parks, and high traffic areas. Do research to find the closest competition – make sure you have a plan for getting people to come to your store instead of theirs – or, pick another spot. If it doesn’t make sense to you it sure won’t make sense to them. Also, you should be able to get a couple months free rent on your lease – get a commercial broker to put a proposal together for you, remember the leasing agent for the space is required to put the land lords best interest before yours! They should also help with build out costs.
Think hard about how you want your frozen yogurt shop to “feel”. Get a clear “feeling” in your mind prior to starting anything else. Hold onto this “feeling” and radiate it in to every decision you make, tell people who you think don’t even care – this creates passion – the best artwork is always done from passion. Opening a frozen yogurt shop should be fun, and it will be successful. Make sure all of your furniture, colors, store layout, and design all go together and work in accordance with your theme “feel”. When everything and everyone is working together in your store it will create an energy that will attract people back to your business, this force is powerful, do not neglect the force! Each detail should be thought out and not overlooked. Also, we recommend hiring an architect, or designer, or contractor who has done a frozen yogurt shop before. They understand how to build out the walls correctly to reach through, get the place set up with the right electrical, air flow, etc.
Make sure your employees get the “feeling”. Hire people with passion, who love their job, and who like people. They will need to interact with people, and if they are happy and give off good vibes then that’s the first thing your customers will notice. Some people will never have had self-serve frozen yogurt before and will look at all the machines and be thinking in their head “WTF, what am I supposed to do?” Have your employees ask people if they have been there before, show them where the sample cups are, encourage them to try the flavors, and explain they pay per ounce and get yogurt then add their own toppings. Make it fun! Everyone should be greeted. Also make sure you have enough people so that if someone is cutting fruit, or filling the machines with product, someone is still out front to cashier and greet. It’s worth it! Be the frozen yogurt store in the pictures with lines to the curb; don’t just expect to have people casually come in every half hour. Make sure your employees also understand the value of cleanliness.
Social Media, Marketing, etc:
Facebook page? Absolutely, it’s free and people will like you, then you can promote deals, new flavors and get people talking about your store. Do not overlook this simple tool. Google listing, good places, do we really even have to say it!?! I went to get a haircut 2 months ago and wanted to call earlier this week to check the hours and couldn’t find their number on the internet, are you kidding!!! Guess what I did, Google mapped from my phone the next closest place and went there. Another great idea, get the local newspaper or magazine to feature your store and do a story on you. People love frozen yogurt, take advantage of it, if you’re the first self-serve store in town get on the phone and pimp yourself out! They will do a story on it. Their alternative is to try to make up a story on the local homeless celebrity… Twitter also works. Make sure you are listed and utilizing all available free social media and news. Do deals, and put them on your Facebook page. If you have a local high school or college then do a mascot theme night, or a sorority night with giveaways and specials. One of the local frozen yogurt shops does sorority nights and has a lot of success. Another shop offers delivery on their yogurt! That is the ultimate treat to college stoners (sorry, but it’s true).
After you have the concept, have the passion, and are fired up to go you need to do the following:
Get a lease on a great spot, get a great build out, get good new machines (service, warrantee, etc.) try to save some money on the machines, there are alternatives out there now and this is a big expense (donper, forte equipment, spaceman usa) – don’t use an import company like palm island trading, you don’t want to get left high and dry with nowhere to get parts or service. You can save up to $50,000 on soft serve equipment. Same with refrigerators, topping bar and dispensers, point of sale equipment, etc. (TurnKeyparlor.com, restaurant depot, katom.com and many more) Get a great logo and name for your store that can be branded, loved, and recognized. Form an LLC, corporation, or DBA if already have one. Find the product, have the sales reps help you find other things you need like cups, spoons, toppings, fruit. If you have a big local distributor like Sysco or US Foods contact them. They should be able to supply a good portion of your needs and even tell you things you didn’t think of. Hire someone to make a website. You can get a good one made by companies like inMotion hosting for a good price. Or make one on word press (like this site). Badabing-badaboom! If you have the passion and can follow some proven methods you are ready to rumba! Oh yeah, you might need some cash too