Frozen-yogurt chain adding doughnuts to the menu
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.
Alan Delano, a corporate trainer with Sweet Frog, prepares to make mini doughnuts. Two area stores will have free samples on Monday.
Sweet Frog faces a lot of competition from other doughnut makers, but hopes to set itself apart with a smaller product.