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, July 29, 2008

Wall Street Journal Takes a Look at Tasti Expansion

The WSJ's Ellen Byron took a look today at the state of Tasti's worldwide expansion. The article noted some new details of the expansion plan, including that new products will be introduced such as baked goods.
James Amos, who, along with New York private-equity firm Snow Phipps Group LLC, acquired the New York-based frozen-dessert business for $21 million last year, is forging deals to expand the chain nationally and internationally with new store formats, additional flavors and new products such as energy drinks and baked goods.
The Journal notes that Tasti's success and appeal is thanks in large part to a group of devoted fans, who have given the brand a cult-like status. Byron raises the question of if this "distinctly New York phenomenon" can resonate across the country and across the world.

The article noted some impressive statistics about the geographic distribution of the expansion.
Two Tasti D-Lite stores opened this month in Seoul; expansion into Israel and Mexico is in negotiation. Late last month, Tasti D-Lite signed franchising deals for a minimum of 16 stores in Tennessee and at least 40 in Texas, including San Antonio, Austin and Houston. It is working on expanding into California and adding to the seven stores already in New Jersey. Next month, Tasti D-Lite plans to open two flagship stores in New York, including one on the ground floor of the Empire State Building.
Lastly, the article covered Tasti's effort to redesign and revamp the several run down locations currently in operation in New York. The program is surprisingly expensive.
Since closing the deal, Mr. Amos has been working to persuade Tasti D-Lite's existing store owners to transition from their previous licensing arrangement to a franchise, which gives the company more control over stores' appearance and operations. He has been selling the idea by promising financial incentives, updated store designs, as well as marketing and back-office support. Each franchise requires an investment $230,470 to $439,600, depending on factors such as size and location, the company said. Royalty fees of 5% of a store's gross sales are required weekly. Franchises also can expect to pay to build their brand. Contributions to a "marketing fund" amount to 2% of gross sales every week.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rocky Road

Rocky Road is a pretty standard Tasti flavor--except the infusion of nut flavor leaves a pretty bad aftertaste. It's got a nice, rich chocolate taste nevertheless. As there isn't much to say about the flavor (which probably isn't worth ordering), it seems like a good time to comment on the Danoo TV screens I've spotted in a few Tasti locations. I've seen similar screens at The Coffee Bean when I was in Las Vegas. The content on the flat-screen monitors are customized for the location--news, weather, scores, events, nearby attractions (powered by Yelp), YouTubes, and more. They really add a sense of class to Tasti locations--it will be interesting to see if more screens will be deployed in the coming years.

D-LIST (2 of 4 stars)

80 calories/serving

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Haven Location Still Closed...But Not For Long?

We've been enjoying our summer in New York, but in no time, we will be heading home to New Haven, where the only Tasti location in Connecticut still hasn't reopened after closing for the winter. The previous owner of the store, Carole Chu, had to close to store for medical reasons, but Tasti is confident a location in New Haven (whether at the old location or not) will soon be a reality. Director of IT BJ Emerson said:
We have been responding to inquiries for the New Haven area. It is just a matter of time before a new franchise location is opened.
Here's hoping!

PB Moosemellow

In May, with much promotion, Tasti launched two new flavors: Green Tea and PB Moosemellow. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to try PB Moosemellow (basically another name for Moose Tracks ice cream--"Vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and famous Moose Tracks® fudge"). Tasti's newest flavor was still being promoted with the placard pictured here--and it did not disappoint. As mentioned many-a-time, Tasti's peanut butter flavors are generally the best and the added chocolate component was great. The taste, however, was not that different from Peanut Butter Fudge, which we gave three stars. (And, on this post, commenter Laura noted that all the peanut butters tend to taste the same, which is definintely somewhat true.) While Green Tea was a natural thing to add to the repitoire (as Pinkberry's Green Tea becomes increasingly popular), it's unclear why PB Moosemellow was necessary. But, nevertheless, I'm happy it was invented, because I thoroughly enjoyed it.

TASTI (3 of 4 stars)

100 calories/serving

Toasted Almond

There's something less satisfying about going to the non-Tasti-branded outlets--the stores which serve Tasti, as well as other things. This particularly location was a candy shop on Madison Ave., which sold candies, Tasti, and weird animals such as this sheep. And you get your Tasti in a plain white cup instead of a cool Tasti one. The whole experience is just somewhat dampened. Yet, out of the dreariness emerged a surprisingly great flavor--Toasted Almond. It's sweet, but with a real tang and kick to it. The first bites are startingly good, but the kick loses its impact by the end, preventing it from getting four stars.

TASTI (3 of 4 stars)

80 calories/serving

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Goji Smoothie

I figured it was finally time to start trying Tasti's newest products. I tried a sundae a few weeks ago and was impressed, so yesterday I moved onto the new line of Jamba Juice-like smoothies. I got the Goji Berry Smoothie--which has frozen strawberry, fresh banana, Vanilla Tasti, and goji berry mix. Given that smoothies are an important effort by Tasti to diversify the menu, let's break this one down:

1. WTF is a goji berry!!???? I think the customer is supposed to just be like, "Hmm... it sounds Asian and trendy--must be good for you and delicious!" Wikipedia informs that the most common name is actually "Wolfberry," which sounds much less Asian, trendy, and delicious. Rather, it sounds kind of hairy--I see why they went with goji. It turns out that Tasti is part of a pretty interesting trend:

Renowned in Asia as a highly nutritious food, wolfberries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for about 1,900 years (Gross et al., 2006). Their undocumented legend, however, is considerably older, as wolfberries are often linked in Chinese lore to Shen Nung (Shennong), China's legendary First Emperor, mythical father of agriculture, and herbalist who lived circa 2,800 BC. Since the early 21st century in the United States and other such developed countries, there has been rapidly growing recognition of wolfberries for their nutrient richness and antioxidant qualities, leading to a profusion of consumer products. Such rapid commercial development extends from wolfberry having a high ranking among superfruits expected to be part of a multi-billion dollar market by 2011.

Who knew Tasti could find inspiration from China's legendary First Emporer. Superfruits are fruits with crazy awesome nutritional value and keep you healthy and are delicious. Tasti clearly read the memo on superfruits as a multi-billion dollar market--all four smoothie flavors (acai, goji, pomegranate, and mangosteen) are all superfruits. They do not include the more traditional, but less trendy superfruits such as blueberries or cranberries. In any case, these new superfruit smoothies clearly fit in Tasti's healthy but yummy niche and their new brand image. (Side note: The good thing about numbered posts is that you can skip boring stuff like this!)

2. These smoothies are expensive!! A small cost me $5.75! It was very filling and the price is about the same you'll find at Jamba, but this price will keep most from having a smoothie as anything but an occasional treat.

3. The server was definitely not very well trained on these smoothies. He looked completely perplexed when I ordered and then had to leave the counter to go look at the promotional poster to see what was in the goji smoothie. He also didn't know the price and had to look it up in the binder. It appears the smoothies aren't selling too well yet...

4. The process of making the smoothie was very poorly presented as well. The server opened up the fridge and took this huge bottle of "goji mix"--which is syrupy and sugary and kind of gross looking. The whole point of these superfruit smoothies is how fresh and healthy they are--and right in front of your eyes, they show you how processed and sugary they must be. Obviously, they aren't going to import fresh gojiberrry, but don't let me see exactly what the gross mix looks like! Make it where I can't see it! It reminds me of when I was 14 and ran to get my favorite soft serve at a Red Sox game and watched them for the first time pour the lumpy, entirely disgusting mix into the machine.

5. So--I made it to point 5 and haven't yet mentioned HOW IT TASTES. And, in fact, the answer is quite positive. The smoothies are great! Without ice, the smoothies aren't as cold and chunky and Jamba--in fact, I amazingly enough, preferred Tasti smoothies to Jamba Juice. The gojiberry was a unique and good taste, and the strawberry/banana/vanilla Tasti really complemented it well. It's very tart but sweet. Nutritional value was not posted on the poster or online. Do any readers know? Comment away! I'd imagine it's not too many calories. In any case, I'm excited to try the other flavors! And Tasti's diversification efforts are off to a good start!

TASTI (3 of 4 stars)