Sweet(er) frog

Frozen-yo­gurt chain adding dough­nuts to the menu

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY TAMMIE SMITH

Sweet Frog frozen yo­gurt is ramp­ing up the sweet­ness quo­tient.

The Ch­ester­field Coun­ty­based chain is adding dough­nuts to the menu at two of its lo­cal restau­rants in a test run that could even­tu­ally roll out to all Sweet Frog lo­ca­tions.

“We have 340 lo­ca­tions that typ­i­cally don’t open un­til noon. This is a great ad­di­tional morn­ing use of the real es­tate,” said J. Pa­trick Galle­her, a part­ner and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Richmond-based pri­vate equity firm Box­wood Part­ners, which owns the Sweet Frog chain.

“We think we have de­vel­oped a dough­nut that cus­tomers will re­ally en­joy the fla­vor and tex­ture and abil­ity to cus­tom­ize,” said Galle­her, who is CEO of Sweet Frog.

Start­ing Mon­day, the madeto-or­der mini dough­nuts will be tested at the Sweet Frog lo­ca­tions at 11415 Midlothian Turn­pike in the Towne Plaza shop­ping cen­ter in Ch­ester­field County and at 10040 Slid­ing Hill Road near Beech­wood Cen­ter Drive in Hanover County.

Those two restau­rants on Mon­day will give away free sam­ples of the dough­nuts to cus­tomers in cel­e­bra­tion of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The doors open at 11 a.m. Mon­day at those two stores.

Those two lo­ca­tions will start open­ing at 8 a.m. on Jan. 23 to ac­com­mo­date cus­tomers who want to grab some dough­nuts on the way to work.

Of the 340 Sweet Frog lo­ca­tions, about 68 are com­pany owned, Galle­her said.

“We sus­pect we are go­ing to test it for about three to four months be­fore we roll it out into our sys­tem,” Galle­her said.

The dough­nuts are mini-sized and come priced in a bag of 5 for $2.99, or boxes of 12, 25, and 50 for $5.50, $9.75 and $14.75, re­spec­tively. Cus­tomers get their choice of ic­ings and top­pings.

Richmond has no short­age of dough­nut and pas­try shops

— in­clud­ing lo­cally op­er­ated Sugar Shack and Coun­try Style Donuts, and chains such as Duck Donuts, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts, plus nu­mer­ous lo­cal bak­eries that of­fer dough­nuts and other sweets.

Galle­her thinks Sweet Frog can com­pete.

The chain is sell­ing mini dough­nuts, for one, which means less guilt about eat­ing a whole dough­nut, he said.

“I know in our of­fice when you get dough­nuts there are a whole lot of quar­ters and halfs of dough­nuts left where peo­ple just wanted a quar­ter of it. This re­ally solves that is­sue,” Galle­her said.

The dough­nuts also are good when placed in the bot­tom of a con­tainer and topped with frozen yo­gurt and top­pings, Galle­her said.

The orig­i­nal Sweet Frog opened in 2009 in the Down­town Short Pump shop­ping cen­ter, and the growth was phe­nom­e­nal. Founder Derek Cha sold the chain to Box­wood Part­ners in 2015.

Dough­nuts are not the first new menu item for the chain, which re­cently be­gan to add smooth­ies af­ter a test run in the Richmond area last sum­mer, Galle­her said.

It’s not un­usual for fran­chised com­pa­nies to test prod­ucts close to home be­fore larger roll-outs, said Tom Lawrence, a con­sul­tant spe­cial­iz­ing in fran­chis­ing.

“The big­gest chal­lenge, quite frankly, is to get the fran­chises to get on board with the idea,” said Lawrence with FranNet of Richmond.

“They are go­ing to be ask­ing these peo­ple to spend more money for equip­ment. … So it helps a lot if they are ea­ger to take on the new prod­uct. One of the ways to do that is to do it in your own lo­ca­tions and show ex­actly what it costs and what the re­sults have been,” Lawrence said.

KATH­LEEN WIL­LIAMS

Alan De­lano, a cor­po­rate trainer with Sweet Frog, pre­pares to make mini dough­nuts. Two area stores will have free sam­ples on Mon­day.

KATH­LEEN WIL­LIAMS

Sweet Frog faces a lot of com­pe­ti­tion from other dough­nut mak­ers, but hopes to set it­self apart with a smaller prod­uct.

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