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    How a TCBY Franchisee Reignited a Struggling Store

  • Jenny Brynteson took a struggling unit and turned it into one of the company's most successful.

    TCBY
    Jenny Brynteson's stores rank No. 4 and No. 10 in sales in the TCBY system.

    Jenny Brynteson’s restaurants rank No. 4 and No. 10 in TCBY’s system. Yet it wasn’t always so rosy. When the franchisee took over her Fort Collins, Colorado, unit last year, it was tanking. And it needed a complete overhaul, from the staff to the equipment to loading up on cleaning supplies.

    Afterward, Brynteson embarked on a detailed community-first initiative that’s propelled the store to one of the most successful in TCBY’s fleet.

    Brynteson chatted with QSR about how she did it, and what it takes to fix a struggling store in today’s competitive froyo market.

    Firstly, talk about the experience of taking over an underperforming location. Where did you look first to ignite sales and, generally speaking, what are some best practices for fixing a struggling franchise store?

    One year ago, when I purchased and began operating my second TCBY location in Fort Collins, Colorado, I realized it was in need of attention and energy. We (my manager and I) knew it would need a fac lift, but truly underestimated just how extensive that lift would need to be. We began by cleaning house and essentially started fresh with staffing, the two most important tasks to evaluate when taking over a struggling store. Our first day of ownership was in June, and there were two employees and one manager working shifts. From our experience, June means busy season, and that requires at least 10­–12 staff members in order to run a good operation. Needless to say, we were scrambling!

    Thankfully, our loyal, enthusiastic staff from our store in Greeley, Colorado, were onboard to make the 30-minute commute, work extra shifts and help train an entire staff from the ground up that summer. It took us some time to find our core group of employees and we are so grateful that we had established such a quality team in Greeley to pull from in the transition.

    TCBY

    The absolute bottom line in the frozen yogurt business: cleanliness and customer service.

    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.

    TCBY

    TCBY appeals to families, which fits into many of its franchisees' lifestyles.

    What was your background before joining TCBY? And what appealed to you about the brand?

    Before I bought my first TCBY store in 2011, I had been busy raising my four children. I bought the store when my youngest was in seventh grade. I came from a family that owned and operated a Ford dealership and enjoyed part time jobs within the company as a child. I graduated from college with a degree in Health and Exercise Science in 1987 and found that it was relevant in many areas of daily living. TCBY frozen yogurt offers a more nutritious dessert option than some other dessert businesses, and I can feel good about offering this to children. TCBY appealed to me because my target market is families, especially moms and their children. TCBY brings a smile to people’s faces and allows for happy, fun times to create memories with friends and loved ones. My staff very much enjoys building relationships with people and TCBY opens up doors for us to give back by participating in events held by the school district, nonprofits and other community events.

    Where did the inspiration behind the kid’s movement begin?

    I suppose that because our target market IS families, it makes sense that we would communicate with the places where we find children and families. We cover a lot of ground when we give yogurt and coupons to kids and opportunities for parents to reward their kids, for things such as reaching reading goals, or being brave while getting vaccinations.

    The Mother’s Day/Father’s Day Card was inspired by Mike Murtaugh, a franchise owner in Peachtree City, Georgia. The concept has been handed off as a marketing tool to our corporate marketing department and is now promoted nationwide. It has proven to be a sensational tool that moms and dads anticipate every year. We use these days to celebrate families and thank our community for their loyalty.

    Where did you start?

    We started in 2011 by building rapport with a couple of schools in the neighborhood by donating for different events and giving out free yogurt cards for events such as back to school, Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

    And when did you know you had a hit on your hands?

    We believe that slow and steady wins the race—but we realized we were doing something right when the community began to reach out to us instead of us to them. They wanted TCBY to be part of their school fair or community event. Also, our sales began to increase and that’s always a telltale sign of a good business strategy.

    How much did it boost sales?

    Our stores ranked No. 4 and No. 10 in nationwide TCBY sales this year, an accomplishment that we are very proud of. The Fort Collins store, before we took it over, had never cracked the top 10, so I take it as a validation we are doing something right.

    TCBY

    Growing with the community is a big traffic driver for TCBY.

    Talk about how the program has evolved?

    At first, I didn’t have a vision for how being present in schools would help us, but over the years I’ve learned. It’s gotten easier and the results are clearer. It’s always a good day for the schools when they see us coming with frozen yogurt! Now, in Greeley we have our routine of participating in key events. We now have the vision for how this helps grow our business and we will spend year two in Fort Collins copying the process.

    How did the community react and how do you keep this kind of marketing fresh?

    The community is delighted by the presence of TCBY at the events we go to. As far as keeping things fresh, we update the designs on the reward cards for kids and continue to brainstorm fun and new ways to present our product. Depending on the size and nature of an event we might bring pre-poured cups of soft serve froyo, our ever-famous cotton candy, or psychedelic sorbet hand-scooped flavors, served up in a cup or on a sugar cone. The possibilities for brightening people’s day with frozen yogurt are endless and, if done wisely, don’t cost much.

    Have you found that community involvement and word-of-mouth messaging is a key to repeat visits?

    Absolutely!

    Perhaps more effective than promotions and other typical incentive deals?

    It’s all about building community, caring about people’s interests and catering to our community. 

    How perfectly does TCBY fit into this strategy?

    We have a product that almost everyone loves, and we aspire to be friendly, caring and competent. We intend to serve happiness to customers every day. TCBY is a perfect fit for this strategy.

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