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Spring 2014
A Fresh Scoop

The market for frozen yogurt might be reaching the saturation point but YoFresh has a workaround.

The popularity of self-serve yogurt franchises can’t be ignored, but with so much competition out there, it can be difficult for a business owner to differentiate the model. YoFresh Yogurt Cafe, a self-serve weigh-and-pay franchise that recently launched its first kiosk program, allows franchisees to choose add-on products and customize their store beyond just the typical yogurt shop.

Normally a yogurt franchise would have machines for customers to fill their cups with yogurt; and a toppings bar to add items like sprinkles, then the shop weighs the cup and the customer pays by the ounce. YoFresh follows this model, but gives the franchisee the flexibility to also sell other items of their choosing.

“We have more leniency as opposed to traditional brands that strictly stick to frozen yogurt,” founder Chris Gregoris says. YoFresh sets the franchisee up with vendors—and any additional products must be approved by corporate. “Products we’ve already played around with, if you will,” Gregoris says. These include items like coffee and baked goods.

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Beginnings and expansion

The company was founded in 2009 by Gregoris with a first store in Newtonville, MA. “I’ve been in franchising in the past and the [frozen yogurt] trend was obvious coming out of the west coast,” he says. “It was one of the trendiest businesses to be in, healthy, and profitable. The model was easy and could be easily replicated.”

YoFresh currently has 23 locations in states including Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, and about 13 new locations on the way in areas such as California and Michigan. Currently all the company’s locations are inline stores in shopping centers, but at press time YoFresh was signing agreements for kiosks and expected the first locations to open within about six months.

As for customer demographics, Gregoris says it’s all over the board. “We do business in large metro neighborhoods and in smaller towns as well, but more geared toward suburbia. We see all age groups and all types of people.”

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A cool franchise

Interested business operators can get started by filling out a form on the company website. After being contacted by Gregoris and discussing the program, a potential franchisee fills out a franchise application.

“Once they’ve submitted it and qualified, we give them a disclosure document and set up a discovery day. This is when we visit a few stores, try the product, meet franchisees and spend the day together to talk about the concept and the product. There’s no signing [a franchise agreement], it’s just a true discovery day. A lot of other companies use it as a closing day, but we use it to let potential franchisees get a first look at the concept.”

The franchise fee is $29,500 and the company does not charge any ongoing royalties. “The total investment ranges from as low as $150,000 to as high as $350,000 and everything in between,” Gregoris says. For kiosks, the fees are lower: a franchise fee of $19,500 and total investment between $55,000 and $75,000, excluding rent. Kiosks are available in both 10×12 and 10×15 sizes and follow the same self-service weigh-and-pay model as an inline store.

Gregoris says the kiosk program has had a tremendous response, in part due to the lower entry cost. “The investment makes sense; not everyone can afford to spend $250,000.”

Prior experience is not required, and new YoFresh franchisees receive a full week of on-site training at their store with the company’s director of operations. A full marketing package is provided, along with help finding a location and vendors, assistance with layout and design plans, and ongoing support.

YoFresh suggests a price of 49 cents an ounce, although the individual location can choose its prices. More than 100 flavors of all-natural yogurt are available, with a rotating menu including flavors ranging from traditional chocolate and vanilla to apple pie, cake batter and carrot cake. No sugar added, fat-free and low-fat flavors are available. Customers can choose from a range of toppings such as fresh fruit, candy, sauces, nuts, sprinkles and cereal. Smoothies are also offered, in addition to any additional products the franchisee chooses, such as coffee.

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Plans for 2014

By the end of this year the company hopes to have 52 franchised locations across the country.

“We’re planning moderate growth. Strategic growth really—the market has been saturated in certain [areas],” Gregoris says. “Scouting out new locations is becoming more challenging because of saturation, but there are still certain pockets where prime locations are available.”

Another goal for YoFresh is to move toward converting existing yogurt shop locations into YoFresh franchises. “We’re looking at mom-and-pop stores and smaller chains and converting them to YoFresh locations. I think conversions are going to be large in this industry in 2014 and even more thereafter.”

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For more information, please visit yofreshyogurtcafe.com.

Kristin Larson Contino

Kristin Contino is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Philadelphia. She writes for a variety of print publications and blogs, and also covers women's fiction for examiner.com.
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