Topping the 2010 list is Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, which made double-digit unit growth look like chicken feed. The Encino, California-based upstart grew from just three company owned units in 2008
to 32 last year, a nearly four-digit gain. By late summer, the chain expects to celebrate the opening of its 70th domestic store. By early 2011, the company plans to have franchised stores operating in Canada, Japan, Mexico, Australia and the U.K., as well.
Founded in 2007 by Danna and Adam Caldwell, whose first store in Los Angeles was financed with an SBA loan, maxed out credit cards and a little help from friends and family, Menchie’s is fro-yo with
a twist. It’s a self-service, interactive, completely customizable experience where guests dispense their own yogurt from a choice of 12 to 14 flavors featured daily and move through lines to select their own toppings. As with the yogurts, they’re free to take as many and as much or as little as they want before heading to the cashier station. There, their concoction is weighed and they pay not by the cup size but by the ounce. Units offer both dine-in and outdoor space for guests to gather and enjoy what CEO Amit Kleinberger describes as a unique, family-centered experience. It starts with an inviting design, a friendly welcome and free yogurt samples and includes chalkboards for kids to write on as well as take-away branded merchandise like stickers and rub-on tattoos.
“Our core values are family, community and health and our strategy was to develop a brand that is significantly different within the QSR yogurt category. Families are our core demographic. Menchie’s is all about making them happy and becoming a neighborhood landmark in every market we’re in,” says Kleinberger, who joined the company in 2008. He’s helped establish a growth-oriented corporate infrastructure that now includes a full-scale R&D department for flavor development and quality assurance, vice presidents of marketing, operations and franchise development, and a director of local store development. Danna serves as president and director of brand and design and Adam as chief operating officer.
With its concept now proven, Kleinberger says Menchie’s is able to help smooth the way for current franchisees to secure financing to develop additional stores, as well as for new franchisees to get their first units open. “We’re seeing many banks step up their lending because of our success,” he says. “Our finance department has been able to secure five loans in the past few months for Menchie’s franchisees. That’s another key to our fast growth.”
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