As my visits to Tasti D-Lite became increasingly frequent, I realized what kept me coming back was the excitement and intrigue that comes with the flavors of the day. Why every flavor looks like chocolate or vanilla is as much a mystery to me as it is to you, but this blog aims to serve as a repository for reviews on and pictures of each Tasti flavor--enjoy!

Have pictures, reviews, or news? E-mail!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NEW IMAGE: Don't Feel Guilty. Please. Seriously.

The biggest change between the old, ugly website and the shiny, new one is the image Tasti is projecting. Cover up the ice cream scoop in the top left corner, and it's quite hard to tell if the site is for an ice cream change or a health-conscious spa and resort.

The central photo rotates between a determined woman stretching before a liberating work-out, two happy women laughing at a joke, and a young couple barefoot on the beach. All happy, all skinny, all young, all pretty. In addition to the (rather clever) tagline "dessert your guilt," the site features "refresh revive renew," "for your active lifestyle," and "your very own guiltless pleasure." The stock banner that runs throughout the site features kiwis, oranges, and blueberries. It's clear Tasti is branding itself as the place the trendy soccer mom stops between pilates and sushi. Is this necessarily the niche Tasti best fills? Perhaps--but it also might alienate a large portion of its potential base--namely, the entire male gender.

This new image (no matter how you look at it, an improvement on the scattered and shoddy feel Tasti formerly projecting) coupled with the expansion plans places Tasti in the Starbucks/Whole Foods type of brand--the chain that expands and expands, while still desperately holding on to the fresh, high quality feel so important to its customer base.

Be sure to check out the new site in its entirety.

The State of the Tasti:
1. New Website Reveals Big Plans
2. Expansion: Certainly Bigger, Possibly Better
3. New Image: Don't Feel Guilty. Please. Seriously.

Monday, March 10, 2008

EXPANSION: Certainly Bigger, Possibly Better

As the first report in a series about The State of the Tasti, Tasti D-Lited takes a look at Tasti's massive expansion and franchising plans.

What It Is

Tasti D-Lited likes to herald its small-town roots as the brainchild of one typical "New York Woman." But the company has taken a decidedly corporate turn (not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that). Last year, the company incorporated as Tasti D-Lite LLC after being acquired by a New York private equity firm, Snow Phipps Group, LLC. Jim Amos took over as CEO with his goal (which is proclaimed "a good one" in the updated History section of the website) to help Tasti extend its reach across the world as the number one "good-for-you" frozen dessert in the world. Amos recently published "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Franchising" (Penguin)--but he does have good taste in Tasti--his favorite flavor is Peanut Butter.

Over the next five years, Tasti plans to open 500 "centers" mostly in the United States. The expansion will be headlined by two new "flagship" stores opening in Manhattan this year (Tasti D-Lited will try to cover these stores soon, obviously). Tasti is looking for owners to run all these new franchises, as "Own a Center" receives its own tab and a prominent location on the minimalist homepage. The tab introduces four options for potential owners: single-unit franchises, multiple-unit franchises, area developer franchises, and most intriguingly, international master franchises.

As for the investment for new owners, the request for information asks, "The initial investment for a single Tasti D-Lite center ranges from $229,670 to $433,350. Are you prepared to make an investment in this range?"

To give some perspective on the expansion, 500 shops would put Tasti right in line with the number of locations operated by Ben and Jerry's, make it bigger than Coldstone, but (way) smaller than TCBY.

What It Means

Essentially, this expansion is good for customers and bad for franchisers. On the most functional level, Tasti will be available in many more places, covering more states and streets. Not to mention, the increase in revenue theoretically means more funding for R&D and tasteology (as they call it) and thus a better product.

Current franchisers have been somewhat up in arms about the transition. This e-mail has been making the rounds among franchisers, bringing some of Amos' past transgressions into light. Apparently he's ruffled a few feathers in his past franchising and expansion endeavors, leading to lawsuits and alleged fraud. Not to mention that franchisers, who were used to dealing with small-time owners and individual attention, will have to get used to sharing Tasti's resources much more broadly. Of course, for aspiring franchisers, opening a Tasti location is now easier than ever. It will be interesting to see if this uprising of current franchisers manifests itself in any meaningful ways. E-mail with info.

What this expansion really means to us is still in doubt. All of us love the personalized and un-corporate feel of Tasti shops and certainly don't want it to turn into Starbucks. On the other hand, it's easy to understand that bringing Tasti to the masses requires more funding and more established management. Will these new flagship stores maintain the Tasti feel and environment? Or will it more mirror the new website--which maintains a Tasti feel, while making massive improvements--being more functional, easier-to-navigate, and slightly more professional looking. Only time will tell, but it is a risk most likely worth taking.

As always, we'll be keeping this angle in mind as the franchising plans develop.

The State of the Tasti:
1. New Website Reveals Big Plans
2. Expansion: Certainly Bigger, Possibly Better