Are fro-yo stores today's ice cream parlors?

Aug. 5, 2011 | by Barry Klein

The spectacular growth in the sales of frozen yogurt is truly a surprise phenomenon. Didn't frozen yogurt already have its 15 minutes of fame several years ago? And wasn't it just a momentary fad that quickly faded away?

Yes, that's true, but there are plenty of differences now.

First, there's the healthy, better-for-you halo that surrounds the product, which currently resonates strongly among consumers. What a surprise! Here's a product whose primary health benefit is helping to regulate bodily functions that are usually unmentionable, yet it continues to grow in popularity. Perhaps the analysis stops at "it's better for you," which is good enough for most people. Of course, frozen yogurt, no matter what brand or flavor, tastes a lot better than Metamucil or the other medicinal body regulators.

Another big difference between yesterday's frozen yogurt offerings and what is available now is the virtually unlimited variety. Considering all the flavors and toppings, with more choices being introduced every day, the taste combinations are practically limitless. Consumers seem to delight in discovering something new whenever they visit a frozen yogurt store. Even if their favorite flavor has been replaced by a new one and they complain, it usually comes back in time for their next visit.

But the most important difference in frozen yogurt today is that the total experience has become an entertaining and social one. The neighborhood frozen yogurt store is an echo of the ice cream parlors and soda fountains that were so popular generations ago. It has become the meeting place for families who live in the area, moms bringing the kids home from school, high school friends, grandparents spending time with the kids ... almost everyone. Why? Because it's purely fun.

Those old ice cream parlors were a similar experience (Picture the one in "Music Man", "Grease" or "Al's" in "Happy Days".) They were the nearby place to enjoy a break with family and friends that was pleasant, fun and helped chase away the cares of the day. Just as important, what you ate there was anything but serious food, and a treat that you could afford.

Today, after dinner, Mom and Dad put the kids in the car and drive a short distance to the frozen yogurt store, where they find a bright, friendly atmosphere, lively music and an awesome variety of selections. They run into at least one other family of neighbors, chatting with them at the same time they are telling the kids the flavor choices and helping them fill their cups. The conversation pauses as everyone chooses toppings, stops at the cashier (who is also their sometime babysitter), but continues when both families sit at the outdoor tables to enjoy their dessert. Even after the treats are consumed, the kids play and the adults socialize.

It's an old-fashioned ice cream parlor experience for modern lifestyles. Everyone gets to participate, have fun and interact with their friends. Compare that to spending the evening watching TV or playing computer games.

Is it any wonder that their business is growing?

Topics: Coffee/Bakery/Donut , Customer Service / Experience , Health & Nutrition , Trends / Statistics

Barry Klein / Barry Klein is best known for creating the Ronald McDonald character and led the "You Deserve A Break Today" advertising campaign for McDonald's. In his current occupation as a marketing consultant, Klein has developed business-building concepts, new products and more for Coca Cola, Pizza Hut, Quiznos, Cadillac, Ruby Tuesday, Friendly’s, Perkins, Pay Less Shoes and others. He has been a key contributor to such projects as Stuffed Crust Pizza for Pizza Hut, Prime Rib Subs and Torpedoes for Quizno

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