Forte Supply – CEO Blog

The frozen yogurt industry is a growing enterprise with a rapidly expanding consumer base. Our industry has been so heavily focused on growth, that helping someone open their own frozen yogurt store (without charging them and arm and leg) has become almost a back-burner subject. In the past 3 years, I have been lucky enough to work with hundreds of people to open frozen yogurt stores, across our nation, and internationally. Thankfully, most have been successful and several have gone on to open more stores and franchise! So here I am, answering your questions and getting back to helping people open their own stores.

Last week, I was asked two very specific questions by a new customer, and I wanted to share the same insight with others who may be interested in opening a frozen yogurt store.

QUESTION #1: What are the 3 most important steps that someone should take when thinking about opening a frozen yogurt store?

Here are the key factors I see to be important based on my industry knowledge and observations:

1. Have a solid plan, have passion, find a killer location, immerse yourself in the brand!

To have a solid plan, you don’t need an MBA and a 30 page business plan, but I do think it is important to have a clear understanding of where you want to go, and how you plan to get there.

What do you want your frozen yogurt store to look like when its opened, how will people act when they come through the doors, what will they see, feel, and hear? What time of year will you open the doors?

Depending on your goals and operating style, you can open at any time of the year and be extremely successful. But, it needs to be part of your plan. Make sure you have reserve funds to get you through some slow months, these could be winter months, months where you are learning the business and working out the kinks, or times when tourism or school is slow. Some owners plan to open for busy holiday weekends, this is fine, but make sure you are ready and have gone through some test runs! You do not want to find out about frozen cylinders or how to change leaky O-rings on your soft serve machine during a rush time! If you have practiced and can operate your equipment and manage your staff calmly that is best! For the plan, I believe it is also important to have good intentions and reasons for opening the store. This could be to increase your families net worth and role in the community, to create an incredible brand that people love and gives joy, or to have fun and make money! I used to hear that people just wanted to open an “easy” store where they could hire “non-skilled” high school students to run their store and make them money. This is not a good reason. Stores that do not do well are usually, in my experience, operated by an absentee owner who does not know how to run the store properly, they then expect to hire managers and workers who are never trained properly – when things start to go wrong no one understands why. Popular belief is that self-serve frozen yogurt stores are easy to open and operate and will make you a lot of cash. Compared to a 250 seat restaurant with a bar this may have some truth, but the real truth is that any retail operation is going to take some work. This is not a product that people need to buy, it’s a product that people may want to buy – your job is to make them want and crave it by creating an outstanding experience!

2. Have passion!
With a solid plan, and clear intentions, passion should be natural.

I included passion because I think it is important to point out that the most successful owners I have worked with are those who have passion about their brand and product. They have outstanding stories, clear vision for where they want to go, and they are moving! There is a new franchise that we worked with that specifically comes to mind. Two brothers with an incredible story opening healthy frozen yogurt stores with gluten free, vegan, and organic options. When telling their story and demonstrating their plans to open, so much passion came through them that I in turn became unusually excited about their opening! I am sure many other people who came into contact with them felt the same way. Interestingly, this creates a “team” of brand ambassadors, fans, and excited customers and this passion rubs off on everyone included on the project. When everyone is having fun and feeling good, your customers notice that! What better way for your brand to grow, then through story, 5 star customer reviews, and recommendations!

3. Find a killer location!
With proper planning and execution you WILL have an wonderful destination! But, location is still key!

You should look for places with good signage and visibility from the street, lots of traffic, close to super markets, restaurants, coffee shops, and other nice retail stores. Inside malls are great because you have a lot of traffic and consistent ambient temperatures. Close to schools, soccer and baseball fields, or other sporting events is good, too! Write out on paper what you would like your ideal location to be like: how many people walk by each day, how many cars pass on the street, what kind of restaurants and shops are close by? Is the area contemporary, urban, main street, suburban, etc.? Depending on your branding and the feel to the store, your brand may appeal to specific locations and people – be clear on this.

4. Immerse yourself in the brand!
This is similar to having passion, and they tie in together.

The most successful companies in the world have all succeeded in creating exceptional branding. Think Starbucks, Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Whole Foods, etc. In the frozen yogurt and ice cream world we have Pinkberry, Red Mango, Menchies, Orange Leaf, Cold Stone, Baskin Robbins, Cups, Yogen Fruz, TCBY, Yogurt-land and many more. All of these brands have excellent branding (design, logos, décor, marketing material, colors, etc.) as well as great stories and unique store characteristics. Before you walk into the store you know exactly what you are getting yourself into and can generally count on having the same experience. When I am in a new city, in between meetings and need to do email and get a drink I go to Starbucks. I know they will have a delicious caffeinated beverage and I also know that there will be free wireless internet offered so that I can set up my laptop and get some work done. No matter where I am in the world I can go into a Starbucks and experience a familiar and comfortable feeling. At Pinkberry, you know you are paying a bit more, you do not have some of the control you have in a self-serve setting, but each time, you can count on having some of the best tasting frozen yogurt you have ever had, no matter what! At Menchies, you are going to get a fun environment, excellent frozen yogurt with the option of a fresh waffle cone, and a large topping assortment! My point is that having a clear ideas on your stores offerings, branding, the look and feel of your shop, all play an intricate role for success.

Question #2: What are the 3 most important factors that someone should take into consideration when purchasing soft serve machines?

The most important things to consider when choosing soft serve machines are:

– What will the soft serve machines be used for?
– Where will the machines be used?
– What is the investment cost/operating cost and availability of parts and service?

What the machines are to be used for is the most important question. If you using a single machine in a high volume per hour situation such as a school lunch or sporting event then a higher capacity machine is probably a good option. If you are in a mobile application then a countertop or the SS100 is ideal because of its low energy requirements. If you are using the machine for self-serve frozen yogurt and will have 4 or more machines then you do not need as high volume of a machine as it will only add costs and no benefits. Even “low volume” machines produce at least 200 servings per hour each. If you are serving ice cream and want the traditional soft serve fluffy or “creamy” texture like dairy queen then you need to add air through an air pump. Initially soft serve equipment was designed to add air as a way to save money on product. Air costs very little you see! By pumping in air, you are creating the appearance you are getting more ice cream or custard then you really are. This is good for the big guys, like McDonalds, etc. who make their business off cutting the bottom line. For frozen yogurt stores, self-serve in particular, this is not a good idea because air does not weigh anything, and it dulls the flavor. Of course, everyone has a preference and there is usually a happy medium to be found by adding a small amount of air 10-25% through gravity fed air tubes and proper freezing cylinder and beater design.

Forte Supply offers 4 Models of soft serve ice cream or frozen yogurt machines. Each of these models can also come with additional features, or add-ons, such as air or water cooled, 110-120 electric, 220-240 electric, or 3 phase 208 electric. Our SS136C, 144, and 256 all can come with hopper agitators, single or three phase, and have water or air cooled options as well as air pumps available.

The exact location the machines will be used is important to find out the electricity requirements, and cooling availability. As a rule of thumb, cooling by air conditioning is less expensive and easier. You can always add vents, ceiling fans, and exhaust fans to help move hot air away from machines. If this is not an option, then water cooled machines could be a good choice. Though we call the machines “water cooled”, more often then not, a glycol system is used to cool the machines, which is a large expense and has to be professionally mounted to either your rooftop or alongside your building. Water chillers, or Air dyne systems are the most common, and can cost anywhere from $6,000-$17,000 depending on how many BTUs you need to cool, what the ambient temperatures are, installation costs and hardware. The important thing to remember is that neither cooling option is better, as long as it is set up correctly. Soft serve machines have compressors which along with refrigerant create the cooling for the machines, the compressors also generate heat and that heat needs to be taken out, either by air, or by cool liquid.

I really love helping people that are looking to open a frozen yogurt store, and sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to start. If you have any additional questions that you would like to ask, please feel free to contact us at (888) 610-5520 or send an email to: info@fortesupply.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 8.19.10 AM

Jeff Resnick
CEO
Forte Supply

1 comment

  1. Hi Jeff,After researching through several machine brands for Frozen Yogurt, we found your product more affordable.However, we have some questions in regard to the performance of the air-cooled machines and water-cooled machines.Which will fit 769 sq.ft? Please contact us at 949-307-3128 with all the details.Thanks,Sue

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box