Party organizer Sheryl Bielas learned about it from her daughter, who called after visiting an outlet in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, franchise industry veteran Michael Shneer got a call around the same time from a friend in California.
“You need to come down here to see this thing called Menchie’s,” the friend told him. “It’s so popular and busy all the time.”
Within a few months, Shneer had bought the master franchise rights for Canada under his newly formed company Yogurtworld Corporation, and Bielas was introduced to him and agreed to be the concept’s very first Canadian franchisee.
“For a long time I’d been looking for something, a business all my own that had a location I could go to,” says Bielas, who was only busy with her party business part-time.
According to the pair, what sets Menchie’s apart from other yogurt quick-service restaurants (QSRs) is its wide range of health-conscious yogurt varieties (non-fat, low carb, non-dairy, kosher and no-sugar-added), and selection of more than 100 rotating flavours.
The restaurant set-up is also quite different. Customers serve themselves at Menchie’s, taking as much or as little soft-serve yogurt as they like and selecting from more than 70 rotating toppings to complete their dessert, which can be as decadent or as healthy as they like. The creations are then paid for by weight.
“I love the fact that we’re offering a healthy product, and that it puts the customer in control of the whole experience,” Shneer says.
It took all of last winter to iron out the details of bringing Menchie’s to Canada. For instance, Shneer had to find manufacturers to make Menchie’s proprietary soft-serve yogurt up to the Encino, Cal.-based company’s quality standards.
Bielas also worked closely with head office to ease the franchise’s transition into Canada. She was thrilled to find a location in a new plaza in Vaughan, Ont., which is not far from her home and is set to house several family-friendly eateries and a day-care centre.
Bielas’ franchised location and Shneer’s corporate store on Bloor Street in downtown Toronto, which was to open in October, will give Canadians their first taste of the Menchie’s concept. Through these locations, the company will look into making minor changes, such as adding winter-oriented menu items and new toppings. However, the exclusivity won’t last long: Shneer plans to open 100 locations over the next four years, and Bielas herself in interested in taking on multiple locations over time.
For now, however, everyone’s focus is making the first Canadian Menchie’s fun, with customers lined out the door.
“I want it to be the ‘it’ place,” Bielas says.