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Yogurtland

Raves & Faves Los Angeles

‘But today’s Saturday. You promised me last week that we could go to Yogurtland on Saturday.’

Batting practice was postponed on last week’s episode of NBC’s Parenthood when 8-year-old Max insisted on a trip to Yogurtland.

You might wonder… how can frozen yogurt have more appeal than the ballpark on a sunny Saturday afternoon?

The answer is a custom blend of 16 flavors and 48 toppings, where the fun is in the creation, and not just consumption, of a tasty frozen treat.

‘People’s number one reason for coming to Yogurtland is the in-store experience,’ said Scott Shoemaker, director of product development. ‘It’s do-it-yourself—pick your own flavors and as many toppings as you want.’

We observe the activity, seated comfortably at a bistro table amidst the contemporary-style interior of the Yogurtland location in Costa Mesa.

Regulars approach the frozen yogurt machines with no hesitation. They know what they want. In fact, according to Sung Ok, owner of the Costa Mesa store, ‘they can get mad at you if their favorite flavor isn’t available.’

At any given time customers can choose from 16 different flavors, from tart to sweet. Each self-service machine (which costs the amount of a small car) produces two flavors, which can be tasted individually or as a twist. Beyond the basics, the offerings change daily.

Corporate provides a schematic to each store to make certain that the right balance of flavors is served. This ensures a consistent customer experience while granting the stores flexibility with their selections, in order to better serve individual markets.

‘The demographic changes by store,’ says Shoemaker. ‘What you like depends on what you grew up with.’

For instance, the stores can determine which chocolate and vanilla flavor they offer. During our visit to Costa Mesa, they were serving a rich, velvety Dutch Chocolate, alongside a simple, flavorful Arctic Vanilla.

To keep things fresh, two new flavors are introduced every eight weeks.

Alexis Eldridge, vice president of marketing, shares how seasonal flavors are selected. ‘We start with research sources like NPD Group and Mintel,’ she explains. ‘We’re looking for what’s on-trend, what’s going to be hot. Also color-forecasting, like the Pantone Color Report—we play into that.’

Experimenting with new flavors is part of the Yogurtland experience, so the stores offer miniature cups for complimentary tasting, along with fun spoons that correspond with whatever promotion corporate is running at that time (at the time of our visit, it was tokidoki).

After sampling all 16 varieties available during our stop in Costa Mesa, we can confidently say that you can’t go wrong, regardless of your final decision.

Put these on your ‘to try’ list:

  • The Peppermint is cool and intense. (Mix with the Dutch Chocolate to create a frozen Peppermint Pattie!)
  • The Pistachio is a perfect blend of savory and sweet, with an interesting nutty essence.
  • The Taro is exotic, with subtle hints of coconut.
  • The Pomegranate/Raspberry blend is vibrant and full of flavor.

This editor’s unexpected favorite combo was a swirl of Blueberry with Pecans & Pralines. The tartness of the Blueberry is the perfect foil for the rich sweetness of the Pecans & Pralines.

And if you like pumpkin pie, Nutter Butter cookies, or blueberries . . . well, you can just taste the freshness. One point of difference for Yogurtland is the use of real ingredients in the frozen yogurt. So the Pumpkin Pie, Nutter Butter, and Blueberry flavors are a frozen dream—so authentic, it’s almost as if you crushed and mixed the ingredients yourself.

But don’t think the adventure stops there. The fun of Yogurtland is that you can continue to customize your selection by adding toppings, in the exact portion you desire. No one will judge you if you’re having a dollop of frozen yogurt on a bowl full of cheesecake or brownie bites!

The most popular toppings are the strawberries and blueberries. Additional options range from seasonal fruits to cookies to branded candies, such as TWIX and BUTTERFINGER.

According to Ok, there’s an added benefit to the self-serve environment. ‘With the toppings, customers can actually customize their own nutrition, by selecting no-sugar-added items, fruits, nuts, and cereals.’

Adds Shoemaker, ‘This is a real food item. It’s a snack, not simply a treat.’

Health benefits extend to the frozen yogurt itself. A sign right inside the door clearly states that yogurt is milk ‘inoculated with live, friendly bacteria called Luctobacillus bulguricus and streptococcus thermophilus.’

To Shoemaker, the quality of Yogurtland’s product is the ultimate draw. He attributes much of the chain’s success to the use of their own recipes and real ingredients, instead of an off-shelf base.

With passion evident, he explains, ‘Bottom line, everyone has to be able to identify with all the flavors.’ Pointing to Eldridge, ‘What she likes in mango, may be different than someone else. The goal is to have the flavor profile meet as many expectations as possible.’

The corporate team works hand-in-hand with franchisees to maintain a superior customer experience from store to store, providing assistance ranging from site selection and sourcing, to technical and marketing support.

‘Helping to maintain consistency for franchise stores is critical to business success,’ says Shoemaker. ‘We have to protect the product and the in-store environment.’

Echoes Ok, ‘There’s an incredible amount of quality control from corporate.’

Looking back at his relationship with Yogurtland, Ok reflects, ‘I applied to be a franchisee, watched for a year, and next thing I knew, they had 30 locations.’ In partnership with his brother Jae, Ok opened the Costa Mesa store in August 2009 and a new location in Dana Point earlier this year.

‘I realized they had a great future, a great formula for success,’ says Ok. ‘I saw that through their corporate employees, enthusiastic and passionate about their product.’

Ok’s favorite thing about working with Yogurtland is ‘seeing the customers happy; when the customers are happy, the employees are happy.’

He also loves helping the community, offering discounts for the police and fire departments and game-day specials for local elementary and high school sports teams. ‘The more you get involved with local schools and programs, the busier you’ll get.’

Ok is just one of many franchisees finding success with Yogurtland, a concept founded by Phillip and Michelle Chang with a single company store in 2004.

They decided to do frozen yogurt a different way, the way you want it.

On Parenthood, Max decided on chocolate with only yellow M&M’S. For mom Kristina—nonfat, sugar-free HEATH Bar with extra OREO.

Shoemaker’s personal favorite is the coconut. ‘It has a real, unique flavor. You get the toasted quality to it.’

No need to decide now—mixing and matching your yogurt creation on-site is half the fun.

So how do you want it?

See our video from Yogurtland here.

Visit Yogurtland:
277 E. 17th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
949-642-3151

Yogurtland has more than 50 locations in California; to find the store closest to you visit here.

This is a Raves & Faves Featured Restaurant.