When Yogurtland looks for people to join forces with them as they expand, humility is one of the traits that matter. “We have an atmosphere built on mutual respect and continuous improvement,” says Larry Sidoti, vice president of development and operations at Yogurtland. “We are always looking for ways to get better. We never want to be satisfied with where we are. We always want to improve the product and our operating systems.” It is an atmosphere fostered by Phillip Chang, CEO and founder of the company.
“We’ve got kind of a whacky, mutual respect going, and we work collaboratively towards company goals and objectives,” Sidoti says. “It’s a passionate group that drives the motor, and this passion cascades through the Yogurtland system, and throughout the franchise community.”
Yogurtland’s model, which allows customers to pull their own yogurt and choose and dish out their own toppings, works. “We have a proven business model. Yogurtland is in its sixth year now, and our average unit volume (AUV) is the highest in the industry. We attribute that to our philosophy of delivering the highest quality product with the best value proposition—the best price,” Sidoti says.
“We come into a market at a lower price than our competitors, and we hold that price with better products. Because of the volume we do, we have enormous buying power, and we do a good job of purchasing,” he says. Savings get passed on to the customers.
“We are unique in that our frozen yogurt formulations are completely proprietary. We have a talented research and product development team, and these guys just hit it out of the park. They are that good. They are our lethal weapons, and nobody can compete with us on flavor.”
That’s the kind of enthusiasm that is catching. “We are looking for franchise candidates with foodservice experience,” Sidoti says. “Also business professionals or people with retail backgrounds. We want passionate partners who are passionate about this market category and about Yogurtland. Someone who loves this so much they have to be part of it. That is how our franchisees feel and how we feel about the brand.”
By quick-serve standards, Yogurtland is an affordable franchise, with startup costs of about $350,000 to $400,000.
“A lot of people jump into this industry because insiders know yogurt can easily be commoditized, that it is purely a convenience. That’s why Phillip (Chang) is particular about looking for ways we can improve. We set high standards for ourselves in guest service, cleanliness, and, of course, product quality,” Sidoti says. “Chains that don’t emphasize operations won’t last. If you are not cognizant of the long-term feel of this, if you cut corners for short-term gain, you won’t be around. We are looking years down the road, and we want to be the last guy standing.”
Expansion plans include growing by 88 to 100 stores by the end of 2012. “We have a two-pronged strategy. There are certain markets we are focused on, including the Northeast, Florida, Texas, and other areas of the Midwest. We also are opportunistic: If we find the right operator in the right market, we will consider that option,” Sidoti says.
The very growth that makes Yogurtland a good opportunity also presents a challenge. “We had so much success early on that we have extremely high expectations from a sales and operations perspective. Now that the playing field is getting crowded as more players enter the game, we have to work much harder to make sure we get the right real estate deals. Ultimately, our price, quality, and attention to details win out over the other brands,” Sidoti says.
For more information about franchising opportunities with Yogurtland, visit www.yogurt-land.com.