A Self-Serve Revolution (Part 2)

It was one year ago today that we first reported on the growth of frozen yogurt chains. In the past year, the industry has grown so much that we thought it warranted another look. Here’s just a taste of some of the froyo chains that operate in the US.

New TCBY Loog

Image Credit: Under Consideration

TCBY, “The Country’s Best Yogurt”, began the froyo craze in 1981 in a freestanding location in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now owned by Mrs. Fields, TCBY has about 470 stores worldwide. TCBY is also the first chain to start offering Greek frozen yogurt products.

One of the oldest froyo chains, founded in 1977, is I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt. In the eighties, they sued TCBY, whose original name was “This Can’t Be Yogurt”, forcing the company to change its name to TCBY. TCBY is still going strong today, as opposed to I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt, which was acquired by Yogen Fruz in 1996.

Some TCBY locations in the United States still operate as full-serve locations, but most have converted to self-serve, thanks to Samuel Batt.

Today, TCBY operates a froyo truck in the Charlotte, NC area & also offers frozen desserts at national grocery stores.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

SweetFROG, a Christian company based in Richmond, VA, operates over 300 stores in the US. A South Korean immigrant founded SweetFROG, which stands for “Fully Rely on God”, in 2009. 2012 saw exponential growth for the chain, with over 100 stores opening over the course of the year.

Scoop & Cookie, the SweetFROG mascots, help promote the chain & can be seen in their logo above.

Image Credit: Orange Leaf

Orange Leaf, founded in 2008 in California under the name Orange Tree, moved their headquarters to Oklahoma in 2010 & renamed the company Orange Leaf. The company now has over 300 locations, with 100 stores coming “spoon”, according to their website. They have international locations on two continents: Australia & Asia. In 2015, the company will have an Initial Public Offering, or IPO.

Orange Leaf offers sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, & non-dairy froyo products in addition to traditional premium frozen yogurt. The Oklahoman magazine describes Orange Leaf stores as “living rooms that happen to have yogurt dispensers.”

Image Credit: Logonoid

Yogurtland was founded in 2006 in California, a hotspot for froyo. Since the first self-serve store opened, Yogurtland has expanded across four continents & now has more than 300 stores. Yogurtland is also known for their trademark spoons, which are highly collectible.

Yogurtland’s tagline & mission both state “Get Real.” Their yogurt is made from Real California Milk & fine ingredients “that taste like the real thing.” One of their most popular flavors is Pistachio. The company recently announced the launch of their Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt.

Image Credit: Utah Chamber of Commerce

Like other froyo chains, Menchie’s began in California in 2007. The chain has had rapid growth since then, expanding by nearly 750%. They now have over 400 stores worldwide.

The Menchie’s CEO appeared in an episode of the CBS reality show, Undercover Boss.

Image Credit: DTLA Rendevous

Red Mango, a popular froyo chain based in South Korea, is having a hard time bringing their iconic tart froyo flavors to the US. Their chief competitor, Pinkberry, already has a grip on the Los Angeles market, a key area for Red Mango. In addition, Pinkberry has help from Starkbucks investor Howard Schultz.

The yogurt served at Red Mango is a lot different than the froyo served up by their competitors. The yogurt is healthier because it contains less sugar & calories & meets National Yogurt Association criteria by including live active cultures. Red Mango encourages customers to linger in their warm & comfortable store setting, much like Starbucks.

Image Credit: Social Muse

Pinkberry built upon the Red Mango concept in Korea and brought it to the US in 2004, where TCBY was already serving up frozen yogurt at their full-serve locations. So when Red Mango expanded to the US, they had a hard time gaining customers, who opted for Pinkberry, the company whose inspiration was Red Mango.

Pinkberry yogurt imitates Red Mango, but the formula is being sought after by numerous competitors, which Red Mango hopes will provide a distraction while they open stores wherever possible.

Image Credit: US Chopper

Golden Spoon is, of course, headquartered in the froyo mecca of California. The chain serves mainly the western US, but also has stores in Japan & the Philippines. It remains one of the only yogurt chains in the country that is still full-serve.

Golden Spoon is one of the first froyo chains in America. It was also one of the first frozen yogurt chains in California. All yogurt is served up by Golden Spoon employees, which can be eaten with the company’s trademark Golden Spoon.

Image Credit: IFANCC

In addition to frozen yogurt, Yogen Fruz also serves smoothies & fruit cups. The company, launched in 1986, is headquartered in the Greater Toronto Area. Although the company isn’t German, the umlaut above the “u” is supposed to signify international branding.

Most Yogen Fruz stores are either compact or small outlets, but some are freestanding. Nearly all locations are full-serve, but a select few are self-serve.

Image Credit: Hungry Meets Healthy

Fresh Berry is a concept chain of Beautiful Brands, the owner of Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe. The chain has locations in the Western & Southern United States, as well as several countries in the Middle East & South America.

Most Fresh Berry stores are self-serve, although some locations have been reported as being full-serve.

National chains Carvel & Dairy Queen both serve frozen yogurt as well.

(Sources: ABC, Wikipedia, Tulsa World, Observer, Yogen Fruz)

The Extra Mile for Freestyle

Image Credit: The ODBI

The Briefing

In December of 2013, Zaxby’s, an Athens, GA-based chicken chain, announced that they’d begin offering Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in Zaxby’s restaurants. (Wondering what Freestyle is? Scroll down.) They began a series of TV & print advertisements. Each of these ads just proclaimed, “Now serving Coca-Cola Freestyle” or “Discover Coca-Cola Freestyle.” The ads didn’t say where or when the machines would be installed. Would they be offered at some locations? All of them? In the Southeast? The West? These questions needed asking & answering. So we visited six Charlotte, NC area Zaxby’s & asked employees about the installation of the machines. You’ll find the results below. But first…

What’s Freestyle?

Coca-Cola introduced their new Freestyle machine in 2009. The machine dispenses over 125 different Coca-Cola brand sodas & flavors, all of which can be combined, resulting in thousands of flavor combinations. The touch screen machine dispenses products from regular Coca-Cola to Vanilla Barq’s Root Beer to Seagram’s Diet Ginger Ale. For those who wish to be plain & ordinary, the machine also has water, along with some sparkling flavors of Dasani.

Freestyle machines have been installed in several different restaurants as well as Coca-Cola operated centers. Some restaurants that have Freestyle include Burger King, PDQ, Firehouse Subs, Wendy’s, Qdoba, BurgerFi, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Chili’s, Noodles & Company, & Five Guys. (A source in Mooresville says that Firehouse Subs and Noodles & Company recently opened new stores side by side near Lowe’s on Hwy. 150.) Thousands of Freestyle machines can be found in the Charlotte, NC area alone. Click here for a list.


Zaxby’s has been promoting their newest addition several ways.

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We visited six Zaxby’s locations in the Charlotte, NC area to see if they had Coke Freestyle machines installed. We omitted seven Charlotte area locations from our search: Sardis Rd, Kannapolis, Salisbury, Gastonia, Fort Mill, & both Rock Hill locations.


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A Zaxby’s employee at the location on Gateway Lane in Concord said that they should be getting a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine “within the next few months.” For now, customers have a choice of eight different Coca-Cola drinks.


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We were told at the Huntersville Zaxby’s that the location doesn’t have a Freestyle machine, but “hopefully soon.” As with the Concord location, customers currently have a choice of eight different Coca-Cola drinks.


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A Freestyle machine dominates the decor at the Zaxby’s on Sugar Creek Rd. The layout is typical of new locations with Freestyle.

University (IKEA)

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We expected to find a Freestyle machine when we visited the new Zaxby’s location near IKEA in North Charlotte, and we weren’t disappointed. The location, which opened on June 23, has a special Coca-Cola themed area near the registers.


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Surprisingly, the Zaxby’s in Statesville has a Freestyle machine. We were surprised to see the machine tucked into an island across from the register area. Employees looked happy, as anyone near Coca-Cola should! :)

Charlotte (South Tryon)

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At this Zaxby’s location in southwest Charlotte, we found a Freestyle machine proudly displayed at the condiments area, with several customers enjoying their Freestyle drinks.

The Extra Mile for Freestyle

Charlotte area chicken lovers may be disappointed. Although four out of the six Zaxby’s locations we visited had Freestyle, the other two didn’t. Customers of those two locations, Huntersville & Concord, will have to wait for the Freestyle machines to be installed. Their only other option is to drive a further distance to a Zaxby’s that does have a Freestyle machine. But Coca-Cola fans rejoice! A Zaxby’s near you will have a Freestyle machine soon.

Summary Statement

Some locations don’t have Coke Freestyle, but the good news is that they will have it soon.