Frozen Yogurt: Convenience, Guilty Pleasure, or Gimmick?

A brief overview of the explosion in frozen yogurt locations in our area.

Since 2011, there has been an explosion in the appearance of self-serve yogurt shops in the Middletown/Red Bank area. With its growing popularity, it seems that many entrepreneurs are taking the chance of taking their market share when it comes to desserts. 

The idea of having things ‘your own way’ is not new to the food service industry.  In my opinion, the self-serve frozen yogurt segment of the food service industry is merely a clever way to cash in on the public’s supposed ‘needs and wants.’

Simple concept: Pick and serve your own yogurt, add your heavy toppings, weigh a heavy & customized sundae at the cashier, and pay .XX cents per ounce. 

I simply don’t understand how so many can open and be consistently successful.  

Recently, I visited a family-owned yogurt place in Middletown.  I purchased a half-full cup of yogurt, with one topping, which cost me over $3.50. Is this a fair and comparable price point, when comparing to Carvel or Dairy Queen? Sure. However, I only purchased a half-full cup.

The whole concept of self-serve yogurt is so convenient for the operator.  With a lower labor cost, the owner can focus on other areas of growing his/her business.

One must consider the financial risk of offering ‘self-serve,’ as youngsters can create a mess and waste so much product.  You can’t wipe the machine and reuse the yogurt, as you could with packets of jelly, saltine crackers, or sugar packets. 

However, you could have your trained employee pour the toppings behind the counter.  This latter scenario would create portion control, consistency, and cost control. 

With such a saturated market of many locations, one of the shops is certainly going to see hard times.  Believe me; it hurts for me to see a foodservice operation close down.

For example, let us once again look at the Squire’s Plaza on Rt. 35 (across from the Steak & Ale), where we were able to patronize three food establishments within the last year: Papa John’s, New England Hot Dog Company, and Rita’s Italian Ice.  Now, all three have gone out of business. 

It is interesting to note that all three of these were franchise locations. When it comes to taking financial control of the business, it can be so difficult for a franchisee to calculate an average check from each patron.  Let’s admit that not everyone is going to fill their cups, like a young child, to the rim. 

The ability to forecast sales can be frustrating and troublesome.  Look at Sadie’s and Rita’s, which opted to close for the winter season. How incredible were their sales figures, to be able to close for 4+ months out of the year? Does one think that the landlords are providing free storage?

It is my hope that the remaining stores can 'make it'.  The food establishments and their rate of survival or demise on RT. 35 is amazing. The tough conditions of the economy are certainly not a hidden secret, as many of us know.

How can Let’s Yo (Holmdel, Red Bank, and Middletown locations), Sadie’s, and Twist survive on RT. 35, when there is such competition in neighboring towns?

What's to stop someone from just buying a half-gallon (1.75 quarts....sorry, the half-gallon days are gone) and making their own sundaes at home?

I foresee another yogurt place in Campbell’s Junction…wait and see. 

I wish the owners and operators of any retail dessert location the best of luck in their endeavors.

This post was inspired by Patch commenter "jerseyswamps"....thanks.

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Ara Karakashian - "Mr. K" March 07, 2013 at 03:07 PM
Thanks for the comment. I never took the food sanitation or theft angle on this one, but I appreciate you pointing it out. Absolutely correct.
Brian Stern March 07, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Understandably, landlords just want their spaces leased... that much is obvious. I’m looking for the reason that, not just one, but 5 individuals though it was a good idea to open a self-serve Frozen Yogurt shop within a few months of each other on the same highway within a close proximity. One is understandable, 2 is odd, but there has to be a deeper reason for 5... especially in a niche market that, recent history has taught us, does not flourish in this area.
Lori Anne Oliwa, The Write Angles March 07, 2013 at 07:11 PM
The New England Hot Dog Company in Middletown opened as an independent and liberated themselves from the franchise. I was very sorry to see the business close as they were clients of mine.
Lori Anne Oliwa, The Write Angles March 07, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Every person I know who has frequented a self-serve frozen yogurt store says it is over-priced. I agree. The quality is fine, but I just don't like the way it stacks up with the dollars.
jerseyswamps March 07, 2013 at 11:24 PM
Another good piece. Let's Yo is good, but the price. If the price isn't right food just doesn't taste as good. That's probably why the samples at Costco and Delicious Orchards taste so good. I think the same person or people behind Let's Yo are also pushing Retro Fitness. They'll tell you another location right across the street is a gold mind. Retro's commercial says you don't even have to be there. They'll train your manager.


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