sweetFrog

Sweet frog

sweetFrog diversifies its menu and opens new stores in non-traditional locations

for greater franchise opportunities.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

As the frozen yogurt industry continues to thrive, sweetFrog hops into neighborhoods across the United States and abroad with the goal of achieving 500 operating locations in the next two years. The company has become one of the top frozen yogurt chains in the country because of its high-quality products and welcoming, family-friendly environment.

When Derek Cha, his wife Annah Kim and their two children moved from California to Richmond, Va., frozen yogurt shops were primarily located on the West Coast. Cha saw a need for the shops on the East Coast and was attracted to the concept because of its simplicity and low cost. Cha founded the first sweetFrog in 2009 in the Short Pump suburb of Richmond.

“It was founded to be a safe place for kids, families and young adults to reconnect and have a fun place to hang out,” says Shemar Pucel, director of franchise marketing and development. “Over the years our amazing team has developed fun activities to host within the stores to entertain our guests, including paint and birthday parties, and a wide variety of national events such as National Kazoo Day and even celebrating Mark Twain’s Frog Jumping Day. Our stores are so much more than just a place to enjoy premium frozen desserts.”sweetFrog Fact Box

sweetFrog sets itself apart in the industry by emphasizing fun within a wholesome environment. With its lovable mascots, Scoop and Cookie, and a commitment to being a good neighbor everywhere it calls home, sweetFrog has been able to establish itself as a beloved fixture in hundreds of communities around the world.

Successful Operators

sweetFrog has about 370 locations around the world with 35 under licensed contracts. A majority of its stores are located on the East Coast, but Pucel says she sees increased interest in locations west of the Mississippi. “Reaching out westward is a focus in the coming years. In fact, our development teams have focused in on Texas and California as areas for future development in 2017,” she adds. “We are excited about the future and have seen an increase in interest among entrepreneurs throughout the globe.”

The company says its branding, financials and community connection are big attractions for prospective franchisees. “The way we connect with the community by partnering with many national youth-focused partners like the Girl Scouts, as well as local schools with our field trip programs has assisted and fostered continued growth in existing markets and could certainly be replicated in new markets,” Pucel says. “It really comes down to the franchisee using their connections to the community. They have to be committed to rolling up their sleeves and work to connect with local PTA organizations, nonprofit groups and other civic organizations in order to educate them on the many ways our local sweetFrog stores can support their efforts while also feeding their sweet tooth.”

sweetFrog’s ideal franchisee is dynamic and a strong-minded entrepreneur. “Typically, family teams do very well. Whether they are husband-and-wife, father-and-son or a mix, we find these groups do extremely well,” Pucel notes. “Ultimately, they have to have drive and determination to take our tools, processes and procedures and deploy them. Which I believe is one of the many reasons we have found military veterans to be strong franchisees. They are able to use the tools and training received throughout their career in the armed forces and then take our plan and put it to action and execute it to the best of their ability. Our brand works hard to assist military veterans in securing franchise locations both in traditional settings, as well as on bases throughout the U.S.”

To attract new franchisees, the company attends national franchise shows, advertises in a specific market and focuses on franchisees who own complementary businesses, such as a pizza franchise. sweetFrog enters international markets by partnering with master franchisees.

New Markets

sweetFrog regularly develops new initiatives to continue diversifying, but tests the ideas thoroughly before deploying them system-wide. For example, sweetFrog mobile units were in testing for three-and-a-half years before being rolled out this year as a franchise opportunity.

“It’s a moving billboard,” Pucel says of the mobile units. “We can bring the fun to larger events where you have a captive audience; for example, state fairs, hospitals, good-will events and corporate parties. It is a great way to diversify and capture sales.”

The company partnered with NASCAR to bring its trucks to the racetrack. sweetFrog’s mobile units are also rented for birthday parties and weddings. Similar to brick-and-mortar stores, mobile units are provided with a protected route and are not to go within two miles of an existing store without franchisee approval. “We have GPS trackers on the mobile units to make sure there are no issues, but our franchisees are so supportive of one another that we haven’t run into any issues,” Pucel says.

In addition to its mobile units, sweetFrog is focusing this year on opening more stores in non-traditional locations, such as amusement parks, baseball stadiums, airlines and universities. “We are seeing success at amusement parks and should have a sweetFrog in every amusement park because we are focused on the five- to 14-year-old market,” CEO Patrick Galleher says. “Amusement parks are a great place to reach that market.”

Although franchisees have a two- to three-mile protected radius around brick-and-mortar stores, non-traditional locations are allowed to open within that space. The company says those locations attract a different crowd and are therefore not competing for the same business.

Menu Enhancements

Frozen yogurt accounts for more than half of sweetFrog store sales, but the company is focused on continuing to deliver that wow factor by adding more menu variety. sweetFrog last summer expanded its menu to include smoothies and milkshakes, which are now in 97 locations throughout the Northeast.

In January, the company began testing donuts in its Richmond store. “We are dead real estate from 7 a.m. to noon, so the question was: ‘What can we do that doesn’t take away from who we are and what we do while adding benefit?’” Pucel says. “We created a test with mini donuts, which do not take away from our yogurt and dessert products but add additional revenue.”

Patrons will be able to purchase five to 50 donuts from sweetFrog’s new made-to-order donut stand. “This is a great morning use of the stores,” Galleher says. “We think we have developed a donut that customers will really enjoy the flavor and texture and ability to customize.”

 

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