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Ryan Combe, Spoon Me

combe100Spooning around with Ryan Combe, CEO, Spoon Me Frozen Yogurt

Spoon Me is “a frozen yogurt franchise company that cares about the body we live in, the community we live with, and the world we live on. We have worked diligently to provide a product that is extremely healthy and a way of doing business that will have a positive effect in our stores and in the communities where they operate.”

Top New Franchises recently had the opportunity to learn more from Spoon Me founder and CEO Ryan Combe.

Top New Franchises: So, Ryan, what do you spoon at Spoon Me?
Ryan: Spoon Me frozen yogurt, of course.  Our frozen yogurt is fat free, has less than 83 calories per serving, and contains no table sugar or artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavoring. It’s natural and quite tasty.

Our yogurt comes in three flavors: Natural. Green Tea. Or Acai [pronounced ah-si-ee]. Toppings range from fresh berries to coconut to Cap’n Crunch. Or all of the above.

Once people are done eating the yogurt, they can move on to the edible spoon (which is made of corn starch).  We also offer smoothies and “heston-style” parfaits, made from the same ingredients.

So it’s very simple product line, operationally, but gives the customer lots of choices.

Top New Franchises: How and why did you start the Spoon Me concept?
yogurt200Ryan: David James and I began seeing frozen yogurt concepts popping up on the east and west coasts.  We loved some of the products, but, in our opinion just having a good product is not enough.  We also think it’s important to have a friendly, engaging environment.  A fun but meaningful brand.  And a philosophy of giving back to the community.

We decided to throw our hat in the ring to see if we could improve upon these existing concepts. We wanted to give people a fun place to hang out and socialize, not just frozen yogurt, but a complete experience.  We wanted to create a place that people would want to visit 3-4 times per week.  And we’ve done that.  Sometimes they come for the product, sometimes for the Spoon Me experience.

Top New Franchises: What IS the Spoon Me experience?
Ryan: Our stores are designed to create a friendly, high-energy social environment.  There are no televisions.  Our employees engage the customers and let them know we’re glad they’re here.  We call our customers by name whenever possible.

Customer service is a key part of our concept.  We keep the operation simple so that the employees can talk to the customer.  We don’t force canned greetings on our employees;  we encourage them to be themselves.  If they want to say “what’s up, dude?” that’s fine as long as they’re welcoming the customer.

Our core, target customer is the younger, hipper demographic of 16-30 year olds.  So we keep the music lively and turned up loud.

Top New Franchises: You’ve used the term “lifestyle brand” to describe Spoon Me.  What do you mean by that?
Ryan: The Spoon Me brand represents more than frozen yogurt.  It also represents the values we share with our customers.  A love for fun, but also a commitment to giving back to our communities and to being environmentally responsible.

We’re always looking for cool ways to improve our local communities. We support local charities and causes.  People can help us spread the love by dropping a few coins in our “Keep the Change Charity,” or, if they are looking for a more hands on approach, they can check out our community board for other volunteer activities.

girl200Spoon Me tries to be eco-friendly in every aspect of its business as well.

Top New Franchises: One thing that really sets Spoon Me apart is your use of social networking tools, such as Twitter, Facebook and text messaging, in your marketing mix.
Ryan: We cater to a younger demographic, and that’s how they communicate.  Our customers are constantly on their cell phones, texting, checking their Twitter and Facebook accounts on their laptops.  (All our stores have free WiFi)  If a business like ours doesn’t engage customers where and how they congregate they’ll get left behind.

Twitter, FaceBook and texting are fun and inexpensive ways to communicate with our customers and potential customers.

For instance, we maintain a texting database.  That enables us to send out last minute or specialized marketing messages.  We sponsor concerts and might offer a cell phone coupon to everyone there. They just have to show the coupons on their cell phone for $1 off or a Buy One Get One Free offer.

Top New Franchises: Why did you decide to franchise Spoon Me?  How many franchises are currently up and running?
Ryan: We saw the opportunity to get into the growth of frozen yogurt and believed we could build a significant market share with the right marketing. We launched the franchise program in February of 2008. Just the name itself brought franchising interest. We currently have 5 total stores 3 of which are franchises. We continue to grow.

Top New Franchises: What kind of person who would make a good Spoon Me franchise owner?
Ryan: We are much more fun to own than most franchises. We encourage owners to be social with the customers. Being outgoing and creating an exciting atmosphere has always been our goal. This is not your Dad’s frozen yogurt store.
It’s important for our franchisees to understand and believe in the brand and concept. We want someone who is willing to buy into that philosophy and implement it into their store.

Franchisees include a large variety of people including families, groups of friends, and parents buying the concept for their kids to run. It is a great concept for multi-unit buyers and also for entrepreneurial college grads who want to have their own business.

Top New Franchises: How does the Spoon Me business fare in recessionary times… and why?
Ryan: It’s a great time to be selling a healthy, guilt-free affordable treat.exterior200

We have a low price point; things have to be really bad for people not to spend four bucks. Many would rather take the family to Spoon Me than out to dinner. It simply costs less. Also, the younger market that we cater to is more recession proof; they don’t have to worry about certain expenses such as a mortgage or car payment etc.

Top New Franchises: What else should a prospective franchise owner know about Spoon Me franchise opportunity?
Ryan: We are ahead of the competition. We are a truly green concept and have an excellent customer service philosophy. Along with that comes our branding power. Without having to play catch up with our competitors, our franchise owners are ahead of the curve and this contributes to the longevity of the concept.

Top New Franchises:
Thanks a lot for spooning with us.
Ryan: Thanks for being spooned.

To learn more: Spoon Me Franchise Information

Read/add fan comments: Spoon Me Fanwall

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