Back in October, a chain of shops (cafes?) selling frozen yoghurts opened up, in Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata. Back then I was living in Vimannagar, Pune, and the closest one was in Phoenix Mall, which was, well, too close to ignore. During those last few weeks in Pune I visited that outlet quite a few times, and recommended it to my Pune friends. And once, I visited it with a camera, looking for the store manager. Why? Because I had been asked by their marketing team to visit and write about it.
Write I did. But quite a few months late (yes I am a lazy blogger). So here goes.
Yoforia is a unique place. It’s a frozen yoghurt place. A place where you can walk in and eat a big cup of frozen yoghurt and no one would stare at you for eating only a big cup of dessert at lunch time. It is a new concept in India. And it looks and sounds cool.
As I entered the place, I noticed a few things – the colour theme of the wallpaper, the furniture, the huge and deep counter on the right, with a waffle maker, an espresso machine, a microwave, and a weighing scale among other things, and the insets in the wall, where I could see machines with snouts, that looked like ‘softy’ machines.
Once inside, and having seen around myself, I was, frankly, a bit clueless about what they offered, what would I have to pay, and what was I doing with my life.
But pretty soon, the people manning the counter decided to get me out of my conundrum, and asked me if I had come there for the first time. Then he offered to help me. By first showing me their menu, which, for some reason is placed right over the entrance, and is set in I think 14-point type. Well, the menu would look good as a spiral bound thing that I could hold in my hand. Sadly, they had not thought of that. So I went to work trying to figure out what’s on it, like you would try to read the names of soldiers on the India Gate.
After explaining the menu, he showed me the 5-step process:
- You wash your hands (the outlet had a bottle of hand sanitizer instead of a washbasin),
- select the cup size,
- select the flavour of the yoghurt,
- choose your sauces,
- choose the toppings (fruits & nuts),
- Then you pay by weight. The cup’s weight is standard, so that’s deducted from the total weight.
It’s similar to Subway, in that there’s a process, you select your components, and the main product is a customisable-from-a-fixed-component-menu item. Different, in that it’s not a sandwich, but yoghurt (duh!), you don’t pay a fixed price for each flavour/type of the item, but pay by weight (so, get more toppings, and you pay more, and if you just want one dollop of yoghurt, you don’t run a big bill), and, it’s you who is doing all the work of getting the components, and making your dessert.
In addition to the frozen yoghurt, I could order waffles, crepes, cold drinks (like iced teas & coffees) and hot drinks (chai, coffee, latte etc).
I made a modest medium cup of yoghurt for myself, with two base flavours, some pistachios & almonds, and some chocolate sprinkles. After I weighed the cup, the store manager Mr. Shiv, refused to bill me for it. It was, he said, on the house.
After a while, he whipped up a delicious number for me, complete with candy sticks, cherries & mangoes, and the beautiful yoghurt swirl on top. I could not eat any more, but he insisted that I take at least one bite, which I did. And then the staff there shared it amongst themselves on my insistence.
The decor came across as a bit confused, what with the wallpaper’s colour scheme (pastel) not going with the furniture and cups’ designs (more primary colours). I kept thinking about sci-fi movies from the 70s, because of the stainless steel, and the insets in walls – this could have been a Stanley Kubrick style dessert bar on the moon.
It’s a bit stark, because there’s nothing on the walls apart from a. the 5-step process (placed so high that I had to crane my neck to take a look at it, b. the menu, and c. a big softboard, where patrons had stuck Post-It notes with praises & suggestions. The wallpaper is nothing but a cacophony of vertical coloured stripes, with silhouettes of animals, birds, trees & flowers in reverse. The silhouettes make it a bit interesting, but I am forced to ask – how is this connected to the brand, product, experience?
The product. The yummy, chilled, delicious, creamy, yoghurt, with the assortment of toppings, sauces, and sprinklings. It’s delicious.
The concept is new, so that’d work for a while.
The idea that I pay by weight, works for us Indians. Because we won’t feel cheated. Yes we could freeload by taking only the expensive toppings and still paying the standard 79p. This also works for us 🙂
The soft board. It’s of course a tertiary concern, but when you walk in somewhere where you see people have shown their love for the place, you feel like you have come to the right place.
What Does Not Work (For Me)
The process. It stands out so much. Because you are supposed to follow that process (total self service) for only one product on the menu, never mind that this product is the reason for the existence of the store. What are the staff supposed to do when you are making your yoghurt? Guide you through each step? And it’s not like I’m guaranteeing a return visit. So much of process learning and knowledge transfer to a customer for one cup of yoghurt seems a bit too much. So the staff has to do this hand-holding for almost every cup of yoghurt they sell.
The menu. It mentions everything else in a properly aligned set of columns, save for the hero product, which is mentioned last, in one multi-lined entry – “by the way, frozen yoghurt is 79p/gm”.
And the placement of the menu. It’s not the first, second, or third thing I saw. I had to turn 180˚ to see the menu, and that, when I was told to look for it. And well, they could maybe add a telescope to the existing decor, so that patrons could see what’s written on the menu.
The staff. They are courteous, they are helpful, they are sweet, and they know the products well. But they didn’t come across as much trained & polished. Also, they could do with a smart uniform. That would add to the credibility of the place.
I got talking to the store manager, and had an enlightening time. The Vimannagar Phoenix Mall store got anywhere around 45 to 200 walkins every day according to him. More on public holidays, and business was good, even though I only saw two other customers during the time I was there. Maybe because it was a weekday afternoon.
What They Could Do Better
Apart from what I’ve mentioned above already, I think there is a need for the walk-in customers to be given a clue. If a customer has to prepare the dessert by herself, how about putting up a big sign at the entrance and on the facing wall with the instructions in big bold letters? Nowadays, you also have the luxury to play a looping movie on a TV screen, where someone is demonstrating the process for the benefit of customers. Unless something like that happens, I think the staff could be a bit quicker and more proactive in asking customers if they need help, and showing them how it’s done.
It’s a new process. You’d need to educate the customers.
But despite these concerns that I’m sure they’d be working on anyway, the place is a must visit, because a. you now know the process (you’re welcome :)), and b. the yoghurt is really really really delicious.