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Mrs. Fields was looking at a new kiosk with specialty coffee and testing a new chocolate bar beverage concept. How is that going?

The coffee kiosks have not been doing as well as expected, with three open in California. There are learnings and we’re doing some things to improve capture rate and drive up ticket. We’re still trying to figure out where we fit in the whole coffee arena. Our coffee is great, but it’s tough to compete with Starbucks, Dunkin’ and Caribou.

The chocolate bar concept also has been disappointing. We’ve only opened in our prototype store downstairs in our headquarters building, and that’s doing much less than anticipated. It’s a new platform for the consumer and very unique. That’s not to say it won’t work, but we need to figure out how to position it, and get it out to the franchise community as well to see how it will work.

Our core equity with Mrs. Fields is cookies and chocolate. Our focus in 2014 is finding a great licensing partner to co-brand, and building our kid’s program. We also see an opportunity to build the cookie-cake business, both on the consumer side and business-to-business in the corporate world from a catering and gifting perspective. We’re going to put 100 percent of effort behind improving the quality of our cookie. Really getting back to basics.

And the company is growing dual-branded locations?

There isn’t a big population of dual-branded units, but domestically that will be a major focus for us, especially in malls. We had five dual-branded locations open in the last 12 months that outperformed our average store by more than 40 percent.

In malls, fro-yo has been very, very popular. We’ve found that when you combine TCBY with Mrs. Fields, the consumers are two totally different individuals. The person looking for a cookie isn’t the person looking for frozen yogurt. So it created an incremental occasion. With the momentum on the frozen yogurt side and the number of opportunities in malls, you’ve got a pretty good formula for success. They’re highly complementary and not cannibalistic.

Are the chains growing internationally?

We’ve had some great momentum there and opened in several new territories over the last 12 months. Mrs. Fields is in Saudi Arabia and Thailand. We just renewed China for TCBY, and we’re in negotiations for Mrs. Fields in India. We’re in 22 countries now with both brands.

And how are sales?

At TCBY, same-store sales are down, but that’s consistent with the industry. There’s been so much growth in the frozen yogurt space. The size of the pie isn’t getting bigger so we’re stealing share from one another.

Mrs. Fields’ sales are expected to be flat for the year, and that’s relatively unchanged from the prior year. Unit growth has been slow. The mall environment is very difficult, and until we can improve the economic model and get our sales up, it’ll be 2014 before we start seeing momentum on the Mrs. Fields side. I’m confident that by getting back to basics, focusing on the product, the experience and creating memories, as well as having a great kid’s program and a killer cookie-cake program, that will help turn the tide.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout