Financing

16 Handles is sold to a group featuring YouTuber Danny Duncan

The 30-unit frozen yogurt chain was sold to its largest franchisee, Neil Hershman, who brought in Duncan to be its chief creative officer.
16 Handles Danny Duncan
Danny Duncan, right, and franchisee Neil Hershman have acquired the 16 Handles frozen yogurt chain. / Photo courtesy of 16 Handles.

Can Danny Duncan save the frozen yogurt business?

The YouTuber, whose comedy has generated 1.5 billion views on the channel and generated more than $50 million in merchandise sales, has invested in the New York City frozen yogurt concept 16 Handles as part of its sale to the chain’s largest franchisee, Neil Hershman. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

But the pair hope to grow the chain aggressively beyond the 30 locations it currently operates. Duncan will serve as 16 Handles’ chief creative officer as well as its co-owner.

Hershman, meanwhile, plans to aggressively expand the brand beyond the New York City area through franchising. “I want to see 16 Handles grow and evolve, and Neil has the right mindset to set lofty goals and put the right plan together, which is exactly the type of leadership the brand needs,” Solomon Choi, who founded the brand in 2008, said in a statement.

16 Handles was part of a generation of frozen yogurt brands that emerged out of the great recession and expanded across the country through franchising, only to see the trend fall back in recent years due largely to oversaturation. But a number of concepts and locations remain.

16 Handles has 30 locations, each of them owned by a franchisee. System sales last year rose 7.5% to $18.7 million in 2021, according to Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. That is about the same number as the previous year.

The company serves frozen yogurt, ice cream, vegan soft serve, toppings, drinks and other treats and snacks.

Hershman operates five 16 Handles locations, including the newly constructed location in New York’s Times Square. He also operates the Dippin’ Dots location in the Flatiron District and two additional locations, and he operates Captain Cookie & the Milkman, a cookie and ice cream company.

“16 Handles is a beloved brand in the New York region and there is so much potential for it to dominate in countless other markets across the country,” he said in a statement.

He noted that the company has been able to generate customers through partnerships with Broadway shows and deals with food companies such as Junior’s Cheesecake and Oatly.

The new owners have big ideas for expansion. “I recognized 16 Handles’ success and knew if it could succeed there, it could succeed anywhere,” Duncan said in a statement. “I’m excited to open my own 16 Handles in my hometown of Englewood, Fla., and to help lead franchise expansion across the U.S.”

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