In this case, the competition and relative uniformity of froyo shops nationwide is helping Sweetfrog grow. Hoopla’s operators actually came through Sweetfrog’s discovery day earlier in the year before deciding to open their concept.
Galleher was an investor and chairman of the board at Sweetfrog from 2012–2015 before Boxwood Capital Partners purchased the controlling shares of the chain for an undisclosed amount. When Galleher originally invested in 2012, Sweetfrog had just 36 locations. It ballooned to 340-plus in six years.
Galleher says they’d love to get over the 500 mark. There are currently 71 corporate stores and Sweetfrog is looking to plant some along the I-95 coordinator since the chain doesn’t have any from Palm Beach, Florida, down to Miami. They’re also targeting some corporate growth in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.
Galleher says the company-run footprint is important for a couple of reasons. One, the chain is open to buying back locations if an owner isn’t delivering Sweetfrog’s brand promise. “We’ve proved very successful on turning around many locations after we’ve bought them back,” he says.
Also, Sweetfrog has an aggressive testing schedule that includes quarterly taste testing of new flavors and recipes at its corporate units. In June 2017, Sweetfrog expanded its menu with the launch of Dole Whip, a product made famous in amusement parks. About 85 percent of stores feature smoothies. And there were some tests that didn’t hit, like donuts and custard.
There’s plenty of room to grow corporately and through franchising, Galleher adds. Sweetfrog has only five locations in California and, he says, the brand could easily have 200. “We haven’t done a ton of international development, either,” he says. “But we continue to evaluate as new opportunities come across. We still have a ton of opportunity.”
As for what’s working for Sweetfrog, and how it’s thriving in such a dynamic field, Galleher credits customer sentiment, community, and a unique flavor profile as the main culprits.
He receives every online review, Yelp, Facebook, Google, and so on, in real time.
“Information is the key to all businesses. And getting immediate feedback from the field, and customer experience is critical to making better decisions to improve that experience,” he says. “You’re always occasionally going to have a store that’s dirty after 14 kids come through the toppings bar. There’s no way to make sure that it’s 100 percent spotless for every customer when you’re as busy as we are. But you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the processes in place to keep it as clean as possible all the time.”
Sweetfrog, as the name suggests, makes a product that’s slightly sweeter than other brands. West Coast froyo chains tend to skew a bit tarter.
“We want to be more kid friendly,” Galleher says. “We want to be more competitive to ice cream versus other frozen yogurts.”
The other part of Sweetfrog’s name—the “frog” half—stands for “fully rely on God.” Beyond how that might appeal to religious operators and customers, Galleher says, Sweetfrog’s community-first approach to business is a key differentiator. Sweetfrog hosts Leap Forward School programs that provide schools “a unique way to encourage students to reach greater heights,” the company says. This includes working with schools to offer free frozen yogurt cards for faculty to use in rewarding students. The company also teams with teachers to develop educational field trips. The Sweetfrog “Leap Froward Field Trip Kit,” includes worksheets and hands-on activities that teach students about weight, temperature, mass, volume, graphing, currency, and more.
There’s also a Sweetfrog badge and patch program with the Girl Scouts that takes children on a behind-the-scenes tour.
“The way execute that on a day-to-day basis is we really want to be part of the community. We want to make sure families feel like they’re going to safe, clean, friendly environment. We really want to make sure that local PTAs and local church groups feel like they can do fundraisers with Sweetfrog in a safe environment,” he says. “We really want our owner/operators to be involved in the communities, and not just another retail food establishment.”