Q&A: Orange Leaf's Chief Talks Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt, Family, and Franchising


Q&A: Orange Leaf's Chief Talks Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt, Family, and Franchising

When Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt CEO Reese Travis took the company’s helm, the self-serve frozen yogurt concept had only 15 stores. The chain now has 115 units across the country with a high concentration concentrated in the Midwest and East.

Through some adept franchising, Orange Leaf has expanded quickly and by the end of the year is poised to take the self-serve platform international.

In this installment of our executive Q&A series, Travis describes just how the  brand is differentiated from the rest of the frozen yogurt market, and its mission in family, community and franchise growth.

Please give us some background on the Orange Leaf concept.

Travis: We fell in love with it as consumers. We found ourselves meeting at the local Orange Leaf. We looked at getting in the yogurt business. Next thing, we opened up a couple of stores—started two stores in Oklahoma. We opened more stores and then we approached the owners.

We felt the owners had the tiger by the tail by being part of a fast-growing part of the industry. We thought they had cornered the market with some R&D projects. We ended up buying the company in April 2010. We moved the offices to Oklahoma City.

At that time we had 15 locations. Now we have 115 open with 47 under construction.

The self-serve model did take a lot of the labor headaches and issues of consistency. A majority of our people start off with one store and some do one or two more stores, or come back for a big development agreement.

I would say it's unique, but still very dynamic. We're not just looking for big developers; we take the young entrepreneurs all the way to those that are retired that don't want to sit around the house.

What's your background and how does it tie back to your concept of having a family-oriented mission?

Travis: I grew up with sports, and realizing the value of teamwork. I've worked at the franchisee level and all the way to the corporate level. We do a lot of hands-on work with our franchisees. We want to be as efficient and productive as possible. It trickles down to our training and how we work.

It's a natural fit. It's a family environment for the consumer. The majority of people that come to franchise with us and run a business are doing it for their family. How [better] to come in full circle.

Folks come in to meet with us about franchising, bring their son or daughter, and the sons and daughters already have their social media plan laid out. This is common...there's a place for everyone in the family on the business side at the unit level.

We also want to promote the family aspect of it. I have four children of my own. There's nothing better than going in for a treat with my family.

How does the self-serve model make it a more interesting and viable concept?

Travis: The success of the self-serve model is that the guest always walks away with what they want. If they want a big dessert, they make a big dessert; if they want something small, that's what they get.

A big thing is flexibility. If they want to make it healthy, they can make it healthy. If they want a more decadent dessert, they can do that. It's a win-win. Our consumers come back because they can always get what they want. The self-serve model has a longevity there. In today's generation − the "iGeneration" ─ everybody wants what they want when they want it, how they want it.

Do you see the model really different from non-self-serve concepts like Red Mango or Pinkberry?Orange Leaf store

Travis: We definitely believe in the self-serve model. We're quite committed to it.

When you watch someone make a sandwich or dessert for you, there's always a bit of tension in the air. I'm sure you've experienced it. As you watch someone crush Oreos into your dessert, perhaps you want more Oreos or something made a little bit differently.

There's value in giving the consumer control. It's easy for people to come in and get as much or as little as they want.

Tell us about the franchise model.

Travis: We're looking for great people. We're not franchisee snobs, by any means. We haven't been in the business long. We had no foodservice experience before we joined Orange Leaf.

You're looking at an investment of $250,000 to $350,000, "all-in, turnkey," depending on the unit. The franchise fee is one of the lowest at $15,000 and each subsequent store fee is $12,000. We're versatile and opportunity-driven. We are a young brand for the simple fact that we're a young company.

At the Discovery Day, we go through our process and meet franchisees. This is where we start the paperwork and determine if they meet the criteria. We talk about the opportunity in Orange Leaf with the prospective franchisees, and see if they're a good fit.

One of my favorite parts of the whole thing is meeting these [prospective franchisee] people. At this meeting, we are able to vet out if the franchisees can diversify and create their own business.

At the end of the day, this is the neighborhood, community, frozen yogurt company. It's necessary to set up the "give back days," where you're giving back to the local teams and community. The community aspect is really the most important part.

Anything else exciting to share with our readers?

Travis: We are opening two stores in Australia by the end of the year. We're setting up a partnership with some individuals who we do business with, and they are connecting with family to help us build two stores in Australia. We have a lot of opportunity there. There's also a lot of strong interest [on the international side].

(First Australian store opened December 9. Full story here.)

In Massachusetts, we're still developing Middlesex and Essex County. We're talking to expand in Boston and the remainder of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We're also actively pursuing opportunities in the DC area.

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The full interview is available at the end of the month in our next Insider newsletter for our insiders (registered subscribers). Not an Insider? Learn more here, or register here.

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Copyright: Kandessa Media. All rights reserved.

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