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Tasti D-Lite franchisee sees new breakfast items as the next step

Having words with Aaron Webster, franchisee, Tasti D-Lite

Aaron Webster is convinced breakfast will be a sure-fire hit with Tasti D-Lite’s core customers.

Webster, a former investment banker specializing in energy finance and a three-unit Tasti D-Lite franchisee in Houston, has been a driving force behind the 50-unit frozen-dessert chain’s foray into the morning daypart. The chain, which is known for its lower-calorie treats, is testing parfaits, fresh-baked goods and hot granola, as well as a line of hot beverages, including coffee, tea and hot chocolate at stores in Houston, New York, New Jersey and Florida. Prices range between $3.99 and $4.44 for parfaits, $1.50 and $2 for baked goods, $1.99 and $2.29 for hot granola, and $1.50 and $1.85 for hot beverages. Items will be rolled out systemwide later this year.

Tasti D-Lite recently began testing a breakfast menu at its stores. Chain officials said you were very involved in the process. How did that happen?

I knew corporate was looking at a breakfast platform, and I had been messing around with [selling] some breads and muffins. I’d gotten a local baker to make stuff for me: zucchini bread, apple-
cinnamon muffins, banana-walnut bread. I found one of the iterations fit [corporate’s] bill in terms of nutrition and taste, so they let me pilot [the program], and I kept them in the loop during the test rounds.

So you offer hot granola and a parfait made with Tasti D-Lite at your stores.

The hot granola really is similar to oatmeal, and it fits into the [healthy] philosophy of Tasti D-Lite. It’s a healthier option for someone going for oatmeal with brown sugar. We sweeten ours with agave. For the parfait, we’re substituting vanilla Tasti D-Lite for yogurt. There’s little more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce in the [Tasti D-Lite] parfait, versus the traditional ones made with yogurt. Those are much higher in sugar content. Why not put healthier options out there that people can enjoy?

They may be more healthful, but how do they taste?

The breads and muffins are butter- and oil-free; we’re using puréed fruit as a substitute for oil. There’s not 1 ounce of butter or oil in my breads or muffins … and you wouldn’t know the difference.

Won’t having breakfast offerings at a frozen-dessert chain confuse customers?

I think some customers might [ask] what a frozen-dessert shop has to offer, but that curiosity is a good thing. Not having an obvious answer in your head may drive you into the store. Our job is to offer more extensions that are good. We’ve done our own research [and] are constantly asking for feedback. The response has been excellent.

Is there any sales data that support your positive feedback?

I can tell you that since we began offering it in late March, breakfast sales have definitely picked up. Sales of breads are up 30 percent, and we’ve just started prepackaging the granola. Our guests always loved the granola as a topping, so we thought, why not package it up? We can put it on a rack; it won’t go bad for … weeks, and people can buy it and bring it home. They can have it whenever they want. They can add hot water to it, and it tastes like oatmeal. There are infinite applications for it.

Why bother to offer breakfast items at all? Isn’t it a little random for a frozen-dessert chain?

As a small-business owner, you’re always trying to create new revenue streams that have the potential to make money from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. [For that reason] all of those things were appealing to me and made a lot of sense to tack on.

Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected].

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