The great fro-yo showdown

Whether we like it or not, we’re living in an age of unbridled enthusiasm for frozen yogurt.  Some say Pinkberry started this wildly popular new craze of culture-infused yogurty ice cream coupled with a smorgasbord of delectable toppings ranging from freshly diced pineapple and mango to Captain Crunch cereal and Japanese mochi.  I’m not sure if Pinkberry can rightfully claim that title (I hear Red Mango might be more responsible), but nevertheless it seems to be the most widespread of them all and is on the tips of everyone’s tongues.

And rightfully so.  I’m indescribably happy that frozen dessert establishments the likes of Cold Stone and Marble Slab are on their way out and are being supplanted by ostensibly healthier options.  Frozen yogurt is typically fat free, and many of these Pinkberry-esque shops have no-sugar-added yogurt as well (don’t even ask me what that means, but I figure it denotes less sugar…).  Not to mention that I would sooner take fresh pineapple and strawberries as a topping long before crushed oreo or cookie dough, though they offer those too for any of you who feel otherwise.

Yes, overall, I think this is a good fad in the food world.  I’ve eaten at three of these new-age desserteries recently, and I’d like to share my comparative thoughts on them.  I’ve visited Pinkberry and Yogurtland in Orange County, and Juniper in Providence, Rhode Island.  I’ll skip right to the point–my favorite by far is Yogurtland.

Read on to find out why…

Why do I like Yogurtland so much more than anything else I’ve tried?  I’ve already discussed what I like in general about these yogurt purveyors, so I’ll now list the reasons I don’t like Pinkberry and Juniper:

  • Too expensive. A small with one topping at either place costs upwards of $5 with tax, and that’s a bit ridiculous.
  • Limited flavor options. Juniper only has two flavors (original and blueberry), and Pinkberry only has three.  Not only that, but to swirl the flavors costs more than getting any flavor individually–can someone explain the reasoning behind that to me?
  • Sizes are too big. It’s not just me–my friends also think that a small is almost unfinishable at either Pinkberry and Juniper, so you’re stuck paying $5 for something you can’t even finish.
  • Additional toppings cost more. Meaning, it costs more to get 3 toppings than 2.  This may seem like the norm, but there are better ways to handle this, trust me.

So how does Yogurtland solve these problems?  With a healthy dose of creative thinking.  Instead of being served a pre-set amount of yogurt with a pre-set amount of toppings at a pre-set price, Yogurtland flips the standard ice cream model on its head and lets customers decide how much yogurt of any flavor they’d like, and then you apply your own toppings to your pleasing.  And price?  It’s by weight: 30 cents per ounce.  To put that in context, an equivalent amount of yogurt in a Pinkberry small at Yogurtland would be about $3.50, but at Yogurtland you could have up to 14 different flavors and 30 different toppings in your cup, all personalized ad infinitum.

Above is a photo of the entrance facade.  The wall is lined with yogurt machines dispensing a spectrum of flavors ranging from cookies and cream to peach to green tea to peanut butter.  You get your cup, fill it with as much (or as little) yogurt as you want in any combination, and then you head over to the toppings:

You have the now-standard fresh fruit and the requisite candied and sweet toppings at your disposal.  They all cost the same and you can get any amount and any combination you like.  Your cup is then weighed and they hand you a delightfully branded spoon to enjoy your personal creation with:

It’s probably clear by now why I like Yogurtland land so much, but in case it isn’t, here’s a quick list:

  • The pricing actually makes sense. You pay for what you want: I wanted a small ice cream today, so I made my definition of small and paid only $1.81 for it.
  • You decide everything. The flavors, toppings, and serving size are all matched to your wildest desires.
  • It’s good! The store isn’t just pretty colors and fancy spoons…the yogurt is on par or better than Pinkberry and Juniper.
  • Personalization is always better. People love choice, myself included, and being able to eat something of your exact specifications is always more pleasing than choosing from a limited set of dull options.
  • It’ll keep me coming back. With more than 14 flavors and more than 30 toppings, there are nearly limitless potential combinations to explore.

I’m not sure if this froyo craze is here to stay, but I do hope that any new upstarts take a lesson from Yogurtland, because they’re definitely doing it right.

Mark posted this on July 24, 2008 and is filed under Restaurants.

Please leave your opinion, I'd love to hear it!