Fro-yo girl here. Time for another frozen yogurt franchise report. TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogurt) grew to become the largest frozen yogurt chain in the world during the first wave of frozen yogurt that started in the 1980s. Is it time for TCBY to shine again?
Overview: TCBY started out in 1981 in Little Rock, Arkansas and started franchising in 1982. The chain grew rapidly, reaching 1,665 locations by 1990 and 2,696 locations worldwide by the end of 1996. Stores closed as frozen yogurt became less popular. Today TCBY has over 470 locations worldwide.
In 2000, TCBY became part of Mrs. Fields Famous Brands. Some TCBY locations are co-branded with Mrs. Fields. In 2010, TCBY introduced a livelier, trendier branding, store design and self-serve format. In 2012, they introduced a line of pre-packaged frozen yogurt products available at grocery stores.
TCBY has a broader product line than your typical frozen yogurt shop (scoopable frozen yogurt, soft serve frozen yogurt, frozen yogurt cakes and pies, Beriyo yogurt smoothies, parfaits, Shivers, malts, splits, etc.) and it has years of history and worldwide brand recognition.
I found the TCBY website was a good source of information about franchising. The site places a strong emphasis on training and support. New franchises are sent to Famous Brands University in Salt Lake City, Utah for 11 days of training. They offer ongoing support including their own elearning platform.
Yogurt: TCBY’s frozen yogurt strives to be a healthier alternative to ice cream. It’s sweeter and masks the natural flavor of frozen yogurt. I only saw one tart soft-serve flavor listed on their website, Italian tart. They have soft serve sorbet and no sugar added flavors.
I haven’t had a chance to try their Italian tart. As someone who likes the new wave of frozen yogurt, the lack of tart flavors is disappointing. However, TCBY’s strength is its “ice cream-like” frozen yogurt. For example, the Golden Vanilla flavor that I tried tasted very much like soft serve ice cream with no yogurt flavor. Their famous White Chocolate Mousse flavor tasted more like marshmallow than white chocolate. Their frozen yogurt grocery store line is very sweet and the flavors are traditional and indulgent.
I visited several TCBY locations in different states. The toppings have been typical. The prices have been high and the portions stingy.
Marketing: I haven’t been to any of the newer locations but I’ve seen pictures. The new stores look appealing but the frozen yogurt flavors still seem traditional. However, they are good about introducing new products like Greek frozen yogurt and Super Fro-yo.
They’ve had some appealing promotions, like the win your own TCBY store contest in 2009. I do look forward to the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day free frozen yogurt promotions.
Outlook: On the positive side, TCBY seems to offer superior support to franchisees, attention getting marketing programs, and new products. They’ve sought to adapt to the new wave of frozen yogurt while continuing to offer ice cream like frozen yogurt. They also offer flexibility for owners, including owning single units or multi-units and the store format type (self-serve, traditional, non-traditional).
Success will depend on how many people still want frozen yogurt that tastes like ice cream. There were plenty of people around the world who liked it back during the first wave of frozen yogurt. Some of their older locations in California (pre-makeover) have been closing, so that’s not a good sign. One TCBY store that was put up for sale in 2009 reported revenues of $161,105. I also read that TCBY’s SBA loan default rate is 29%.
· Total investment needed to open: $140,000 – $397,740
· Franchise fee: $25,000
· Royalty: 6%
· Financial requirements: $100,000 in liquid assets, $200,000 net worth
You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.
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