TCBY serves up a new identity

TCBY's parent company is attempting to reinvigorate the nearly 30-year-old brand with a new self-service prototype scheduled to open here in July.

Combined with an updated design, logo and brand identity, TCBY officials said Tuesday that the move to self-service is a step in reclaiming the chain's former leadership in the frozen yogurt category.

Tim Casey, chief executive of TCBY parent Mrs. Fields Original Cookies Inc., said the new company-owned prototype would not be the first TCBY to offer self-service. A franchisee in North Carolina has opened a self-service unit with some components of the new design, and another existing franchisee is in the process of converting a traditional counter-service location to the new self-service model.

However, the prototype will be the first self-service location to incorporate all aspects of what Casey called “a new TCBY,” and most new stores going forward will include the new format and design.

“We feel like the tone of the experience, energy and choice self-serve offers the consumer is not only a dramatic departure from our current experience, but a departure from the category as a whole,” said Casey, who joined the company in May. “There has been a shift in behavior that clearly indicates that consumers like choice, convenience and options.”

A division of Mrs. Fields, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2008, Salt Lake City-based TCBY, or The Country’s Best Yogurt, has more than 800 locations globally, including 441 in the United States.

However, more recent upstarts such as Los Angeles-based Pinkberry, with about 80 units, and Dallas-based Red Mango, with 71 locations, have redefined the category with tart yogurts served in stylish settings with health-focused marketing messages.

Pinkberry does not offer self-service, but it is pioneering service features within the froyo world such as online ordering with curbside pick-up, as well as delivery and catering.

Red Mango has expanded franchise offerings to allow guests to swirl their own yogurt where franchisees feel that model will work. Currently, three units offer self-service, and more are in development, Red Mango officials said.

Other yogurt brands, such as the 87-unit Yogurtland, based in Anaheim, Calif., are growing rapidly with a self-service model. Yogurtland is scheduled to have 130 units open nationally by the end of 2010.

TCBY officials described the new prototype design as having “a clean, progressive personality with smart functionality for both consumers and employees.”

The store will have 10 to 16 flavors — a wider selection than what is traditionally available — including 98-percent-fat-free, sugar-free and sorbet options. TCBY in recent months has reformulated its yogurt to offer a more healthful profile, Casey said, emphasizing the use of probiotics and active cultures as well as a range of fat-free to low-fat options.

Under the new format, guest will serve themselves yogurt and select among 30 to 50 toppings, such as fresh fruit, granola and hot sauces. The yogurt will be priced at 39 cents per ounce, which is in line with other self-service froyo brands.

The company is looking at units ranging between 1,200- to 1,800-square feet, but Casey said they don’t yet have build-out estimates on the new prototype because it’s still under construction.

In addition to the new design, TCBY has updated its logo, which the company said would be incorporated into in-store and outdoor signage, packaging, employee uniforms and marketing collateral.

Casey said TCBY is also exploring the idea of offering free Wi-Fi and other technology touches.

“Smart companies today are paying attention to consumers,” he said. “If online ordering and mobile apps are important to them, we’ll go that direction.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]