We also began cleaning the store, and this was no easy feat. From the front door to the frozen yogurt machines, we scrubbed and polished and serviced all things mechanical. All hands were on deck from June through December, when we finally felt that the store was restored to a condition we were proud of. To us, the absolute bottom line in the frozen yogurt business or any food establishment is cleanliness and customer service.
The other piece of reestablishing the presence of TCBY in the community was retraining our customers to understand and accept an updated pricing model of our self-serve frozen yogurt, the pay-by-the-ounce concept. We first looked to ignite sales by gaining a new reputation through current customers and word-of-mouth that the reopened store was a pleasant, clean and friendly place to visit with family and friends. Our second step has been to familiarize ourselves with the surrounding neighborhoods and remind them that TCBY is right in their own back yard. We have been marketing birthday parties in store, giving back to the community by making donations to local causes and in holiday seasons, giving free yogurt cards to the elementary schools.
Our strategy moving into the coming year is to do what we call “street treating.” We will choose a variety of businesses and professional offices in the community, beginning with the ones closest to us and moving out to surrounding neighborhoods over time, and bring them sample cups of our product, coupons and information about what we offer.
Fixing a struggling store essentially takes time. Here are a few tips for other owners or aspiring owners:
- Gaining control of the physical store and staffing properly is paramount.
- Earn the trust and confidence of the customer by presenting a clean store and serving fresh product day after day.
- Hire and train friendly, competent staff.
- Last, but definitely not least, I believe that in order to grow a solid customer base we MUST be willing to give back to the local community. Sharing in the passion the community has for their causes goes a long way.
I have talked to other business owners along the way who are tentative to donate too much or give coupons for fear of losing money. My experience has been just the opposite. Folks become quite loyal when they know we truly care about what they are interested in. It’s through this that we begin to make relationships with people, and do so sincerely.