Fro.Zen.Yo is a healthy, self-serve frozen yogurt franchise based in Washington, D.C. They offer 16 flavours and over 30 toppings all at an affordable price.
Owner Chuck Rendelman started the company in 2009 after a friend of his showed him a self-serve yogurt store while in Las Vegas. Rendelman became fascinated with the business model. Upon returning to D.C., he was looking for something to do since he sold his previous business, and that’s when Fro.Zen.Yo was born. “I explored the idea and then started doing all the research,” he recalls.
Being the first frozen yogurt store in D.C. has given the company a competitive edge in the marketplace. They were immediately accepted by consumers upon opening in a prime location in the downtown business district, Rendelman says. “Our yogurt is fantastic and our pricing is very good. We just have a store that is a lot of fun to come to,” he says.
Another thing that sets them apart from competitors is the sheer volume of their sales. They double the numbers of their competition, Rendelman says. “We have a number of stores that earn over a million dollars a year. Our profits are phenomenal. That’s a lot of yogurt.”
Yet another advantage to their business is their approach to staffing – approximately 130 people work under the Fro.Zen.Yo banner, and the number varies at different times yearly, which makes it fairly manageable. “Our stores can run with just a few people, and when we’re really busy we can jump to four people per store. But we don’t need a lot of people to operate our stores,” says Rendelman.
The quality of people attracted to Fro.Zen.Yo also helps to set the brand apart. “We have phenomentally talented staff,” he says. “Everybody is committed and passionate to what they’re doing.”
Finally, Fro.Zen.Yo stands above the crowd due to their propriety coffee blend – Zombie Coffee, which Fro.Zen.Yo executives came up with after observing the kind of social components their stores were serving.
Two in one
The way Fro.Zen.Yo approaches their franchises is to incorporate them as “two businesses in one” with their Fro.Zen.Yo and Zombie Coffee brands. “We’re selling two businesses for the price of one. We love the franchising business. It’s a lot fun and challenging,” Rendelman says. “Every franchisee has a different personality and business style and we have to adjust to that.”
When they look for a franchisee, they look for people with some business experience who want to buy more than one franchise and expand. They’re not looking for a franchisee that will open their store and operate it himself, Rendelman explains. “We’re looking for people who want to buy a franchise and start selling franchises to others in their state and area.”
Fro.Zen.Yo supports their franchisees 24/7 with logistical and emotional support and guidance. They work with them “all the way along” and keep track of their progress digitally.
As for training, franchisees go through an initial learning program before opening their store. After that, they are provided with hands-on assistance for the first month to “get them off to a good start,” Rendelman says.
“For the first month, we have someone over at their store every day, making sure things go right. It’s not a particularly difficult business to operate once you open,” he says. “The key is hiring the right staff. We feel like you should walk into a franchise store and think it’s one of our stores.”
For people wary about health concerns, Fro.Zen.Yo has a wide-variety of yogurts and flavours that suit people’s health needs. They promote those features with ample signage in their stores listing fat content and advertising sugar-free and fibre-filled yogurts.
Their frozen yogurts contain high levels of beneficial live and active yogurt cultures. These cultures are probiotic and are considered beneficial to be present in the intestinal tract of the human body to ensure proper balance needed for digestion and good health. They also offer non-dairy flavours for those that are diabetic or lactose intolerant. All their fruit and produce is fresh.
“If you compare our product to any fast-food product, we’re pretty much on top of it. More and more people are discovering eating yogurt is healthier for you all the time,” Rendelman says. “It’s hard for them to believe it’s healthy, but it really is.”
One of the challenges with having a strong focus on health is staying interesting and relevant, which is why they’ve expanded their brand to include new products such as their Zombie Coffee. “We will continue to evolve our business, and not just leave it the way it is,” he says.
Zombie Coffee on the rise
Currently, the main focus for Fro.Zen.Yo is developing their Zombie Coffee brand and synergizing it with their yogurt. In the next six months, Zombie Coffee will be offered at all of their stores. “People love coming in for our coffee. We’re not expensive and it’s a really good cup of coffee,” Rendelman says.
Along with their Zombie Coffee, they also offer regular and a stronger version called Night Shift, which lends itself to the name. “We discovered that a lot of people drink coffee at 8 o’clock at night. We had no idea people would start drinking coffee that late,” he says.
The Zombie brand also incorporates a social aspect, where the company gives back money to the local communities. For example, when you buy a cup of Zombie Coffee, a certain percentage of the sale will go to various charitable projects. “We feel it’s great we’re helping causes right in our own neighbourhood that should be addressed,” he says.
They’re also planning on opening new stores in Boston next spring.
A future household name
Looking ahead long-term, Rendelman sees Fro.Zen.Yo operating as a strong, international brand name. He expects that the company will change in the next 15 years, but says their core yogurt business will remain. As they expand, they will position themselves more internationally. Talks are already underway with potential franchisees located outside of the United States.
“We’re going to let our success dictate which way we grow,” he concludes. “We see Fro.Zen.Yo as becoming a household name in a lot of different markets and demographics.”