Fro.Zen.Yo has been a player in the fast-growing frozen yogurt space since July 2009. The Washington, D.C.-based chain is now up to seven units in D.C., Boston and Baltimore, with 19 more under development and ambitious plans for further expansion.
Like many frozen yogurt concepts, the company includes a self-serve model, numerous flavors, fruit and candy toppings, and by-the-ounce pricing.
Unlike most, however, Fro.Zen.Yo now has its own coffee blend. The company debuted Zombie Coffee last month.
President Chuck Rendelman said the idea to launch a proprietary coffee blend came from the crowds Fro.Zen.Yo was attracting.
"We were seeing a big social component in our stores, more than we had estimated. We're sort of an 'outside the office-water cooler at 3 p.m.' place, and coffee fits that," he said. "This just gives our guests another product to walk in for."
Fro.Zen.Yo executives chose the name Zombie for its coffee brand because "you feel like a zombie in the morning before you get your first cup," said Michael Rendelman, director of franchising.
Chuck Rendelman added that the name is catchy and the team thought it would be interesting to do a sort of brand-within-a-brand concept, instead of having a Fro.Zen.Yo-labeled coffee.
The company anticipates adding a wholesale component to the coffee and has been in distribution discussions with Sysco. The company will also continue to focus just as heavily on frozen yogurt.
"We're not changing identities from yogurt to coffee, we're just building on to our platform and adding another revenue stream for our franchisees," Rendelman said.
For the coffee product, there are currently two drip options – Zombie and Zombie Double Bold. In development is the Night Shift blend, which is stronger and geared toward the post-9 p.m. coffee crowd – a surprisingly heavy demographic at Fro.Zen.Yo, according to Rendelman.
The product has also done very well for its morning daypart, as the business opens at 6:45 a.m.
Within the next five weeks, Fro.Zen.Yo should have a full launch of iced coffee blends, cappuccinos, espressos and lattes, also in a self-serve format. Zombie is offered at $1.45 for a large, and $1.85 for an X-large cup, including extra flavorings such as vanilla and caramel.
Rendelman said the self-service format – for both its frozen yogurt and coffee offerings – helps Fro.Zen.Yo stick to its mission statement of "2 minutes or less."
"We work fast and we'll add extra equipment if we have to in order to meet that mission," he said.
A year in development
Rendelman said he knows the coffee space is crowded, but believes there is still plenty of room for competition, particularly between the 7-11 price point and Starbucks' offerings.
"The differentiator for us is we're providing premium coffee at a lower price, while everyone else is selling regular coffee at a lower price. People know the difference. Our coffee is consistent," he said.
Rendelman also believes Fro.Zen.Yo has an ideal team in place to ensure a successful rollout. Emmanuel Gonzales, director of store operations for the brand, led the testing and development of Zombie. Prior to his current position, he was an 8-year veteran at Starbucks.
"We are very excited about the beans and they have been roasted to our specifications," Gonzales said. He won't, however, release specifics about the Zombie blend's bean or roasting sources.
In addition to offering a proprietary cup of coffee, the company has translated Zombie into one of its 16 frozen yogurt flavors, which Rendelman believes gives Fro.Zen.Yo another competitive advantage.
"We like the challenge. A lot of people don't go into the coffee space because McDonald's, Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts are doing it. They shy away from competing," he said. "But I'd like to be right next to them."
Read more about food and beverage launches.