What is in this article?:
- Famous Brands CEO discusses future of TCBY, Mrs. Fields
- Dual branding and growing internationally
Courtney previously served as Famous Brands’ chief operating officer.
With a new chief executive and an ownership shift to a single private-equity group, Famous Brands International, parent to the TCBY and Mrs. Fields Cookies chains, is refocusing on innovation and new growth.
Neal Courtney was named chief executive of the Broomfield, Colo.-based company in July, after serving as interim CEO since February, following the departure of former CEO Tim Casey to Qdoba Mexican Grill.
Courtney, who was previously Famous Brands’ chief operating officer since May 2012, had been with the company for eight years prior to that.
On Monday, Famous Brands also said it appointed Michael Chao chief financial officer, filling a position that had been vacant for about four years. Chao was previously vice president of finance, treasury and investor relations at Vail Resorts Inc.
In July, global asset management firm Z Capital Partners became Famous Brands’ sole shareholder, acquiring a minority stake owned by The Carlyle Group since 2008. Terms were not disclosed. The two investor groups had recapitalized the company’s debt in late 2011, becoming majority shareholders.
Over the past two years, Famous Brands moved its base from Salt Lake City to Broomfield, and both brands launched initiatives to re-energize sales and spark new growth, including menu innovations at TCBY that will be revealed later this week.
TCBY has about 650 units, with about 275 in the U.S. Mrs. Fields has about 400 locations, also with 275 in the U.S.
Courtney spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about his plans for the two almost fully franchised brands going forward.
What does the ownership change mean for TCBY and Mrs. Fields?
For me, it’s great news because it streamlines decision-making, it reduces potential complexity and bureaucracy, and we can really just move a lot faster. Board meetings are going to become a lot more efficient.
There has been a lot of news from both chains about new prototype units. Can you bring us up to speed?
I can tell you we’re going to be more focused. We will still focus on innovation and exciting change, but at the end of the day we won’t do as many things. We’re going to focus on a few things and do them really well. When you try to juggle 10 balls, you end up with 10 balls on the floor.
TCBY has been working on its health profile. There is a new self-service format and talks of fresh yogurt bars, juice and smoothies. Are those still in the works?
With TCBY’s new self-serve model, we’ll have net store growth for the second year in a row. We continue to see momentum with franchisees, so we’re seeing some great multi-unit growth. We’ll open about 50 domestic stores this year, all self-service, and about 50 percent of the system now has self service.
We’re also still very focused on the health aspect of our yogurt. We were the first to market with the frozen Greek yogurt and we have two high-profile flavors: honey vanilla and wildberry. We’re trying to forge this idea of healthy indulgence. We’re emphasizing and stressing our Super Fro-Yo. We haven’t done a good job of communicating what Super Fro-Yo means. For us, it’s a real point of differentiation versus the competitive marketplace.
We haven’t started testing the fresh yogurt yet, but it’s still one of our priorities. Smoothies, juices and other healthy drinks are also still in the plans. But, really, our core equity is great frozen yogurt that has tremendous health benefits.
I continue to be very bullish on our position. I think we’ll continue to see net store growth. And there will be consolidation in the [frozen yogurt] space, which we’re in good position to take advantage of.