Tasti D-Lite, the great-tasting, better-for-you frozen treat chain, achieved unprecedented growth in the first half of 2011. The chain has signed new development agreements for Tampa, Florida, for several counties in New York and Connecticut, and for a network of non-traditional sites across the country, totaling 104 locations. Additionally, Tasti D-Lite recently opened its first locations in Missouri, Massachusetts, Nevada, Maryland, and North Carolina, and will open its first California center in the third quarter.

The driving force behind the company’s growth has been its commitment to innovation across all facets of its business, including its core concept and offering, which has resulted in the opening of four first-of-their-kind centers:

  • Drive thru: The first Tasti D-Lite drive-thru location opened earlier this year in Columbia, Missouri.
  • On campus: Duke University in North Carolina is home to one of the most progressive collegiate dining programs in the country. It is also home to Tasti D-Lite’s first campus store, opened in March, where students, faculty, and staff are able to pay with a pre-paid dining plan option. Additional on-campus sites in the works include Georgetown University and New Hampshire’s Brewster Academy preparatory school.
  • Hybrid: Tasti D-Lite has created a brand new format that it believes uniquely delivers what consumers are looking for today. Its new hybrid concept adds a self-serve module to the brand’s long-time full-serve model to give customers maximum choice and control over their treat experience. In the self-serve section of the center, customers can select and dispense their favorite flavors and toppings and pay by weight. Yet, they can still go to the counter and order a custom blend of more than 100 flavors, or order a smoothie, parfait, or other made-just-for you healthier treat. There are already two hybrid Tasti D-Lite locations open in Dallas, three in Las Vegas, one in New Jersey, and more in development across a variety of markets.
  • Store within a atore: Tasti D-Lite’s Las Vegas Boulevard location is a store-within-a-store format where Tasti D-Lite co-exists within a convenience store, also owned by the franchisee.

In addition to innovation on its format, Tasti D-Lite has introduced new products and new campaigns. It has expanded its hot beverage, breakfast, and specialty treat offerings and is rolling out a new line of fresh-made crepes. In the spring, the company launched a yearlong Tasti Healthy Habit Search Contest, in which customers can submit their story about how their Tasti habit has made a healthy difference in their life. One winner is selected each month and receives $1,000 cash plus a month of free Tasti and their story is featured online and in Tasti D-Lite stores. The campaign has showcased winners including one who has lost 100 pounds, and another who is a certified fitness trainer who recommends Tasti D-Lite to all of her clients as a substitute for unhealthier sweet treats. The company has also expanded its groundbreaking social media program, serving as a launch partner on Google’s new Google Places location-based platform, as well as bolstering its award-winning, socially progressive TastiRewards loyalty program.

Tasti D-Lite today has locations open in twelve states, with locations in new states including its first California outpost coming soon. Beyond its U.S. growth, Tasti D-Lite is expanding internationally as well. The company has locations open in Mexico and the United Arab Emirates and will open its first locations in Australia in the third quarter and Panama in the fourth quarter. The company also expects to announce news soon on agreements that will further expand its international footprint.

To support its growth and new initiatives over the past year, Tasti D-Lite has bolstered its management team. Among the new executives are Linda Shunk, VP of operations; Phil Trello, director of real estate, construction, and design; and Dedria Ray, franchise operations manager. The three executives bring strong franchising backgrounds from six different franchised organizations to the Tasti D-Lite management team, which now boasts more than 340 years of combined franchising experience.

“This year we’ve experienced the greatest growth in the history of our 24-year old brand,” says Tasti D-Lite CEO Jim Amos.  “We’ve achieved this not only through hard work, but by innovating in literally every area of our business. It’s a new day in franchising in which flexibility along with an ability to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and consumer demands are critical success factors. I’m excited about how we’ve evolved our concept and formats, store design, product offering, marketing, and social media programs, and even our management team this past year. This innovation mindset has created new growth opportunities for us and, even more importantly, has become part of our company culture that will allow us to continue to stay ahead in the marketplace.”

Tasti D-Lite expects to end 2011 with 70 locations open and operating and is projecting to have another 50 units open or in development by the end of 2012.

Consumer Trends, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Desserts, Drive Thru, Menu Innovations, News, Operations, Pizza, Restaurant Operations, Tasti D-Lite