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Why Top Workplace Yogurtology employees are serving froyo with a smile

Robert Frijouf, 8, and Elle Frijouf, 10, watch as Ryan Ibrahim, general manager, works the register at Yogurtology at 1202 S Church Ave in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Robert Frijouf, 8, and Elle Frijouf, 10, watch as Ryan Ibrahim, general manager, works the register at Yogurtology at 1202 S Church Ave in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Apr. 5, 2019

TAMPA — Yogurtology doesn't have employees, it has Yogurtologists.

These Yogurt scientists have a pretty sweet gig — complete with all the free froyo and tasty toppings they could ever want. But it's more than just free treats that helped this Tampa-based chain rank tops in the small business category of Top Workplaces category.

"Our culture is very friendly," said Marissa Shanks, the Florida company's area director. "Everyone is supportive of each other. Employees want to come to work because it's fun."

Yogurtology started in Arizona. Couple Ean and Jaclyn Mendelsohn brought the franchise to Tampa in 2009. They wanted to jump into the yogurt craze and chose a brand with a modern aesthetic that was more adult than the standard ice cream shop.
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By 2013, the Mendelsohns and Jaclyn's brother, Jordan Levy, were so successful they were able to buy out the Arizona owner. The company's headquarters are now in South Tampa.

Over the last decade, seven locations have opened in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. They've also spread to Gainesville and Coral Springs. All the Florida operations — except for the booth at the Tampa airport — are corporately owned and operated.

Each location has become a haven for college and high school students who want a flexible part-time job that won't interfere with school. Turns out, working with yogurt is a lot less stressful than other part-time jobs.

"We don't have minimum required hours they need to work," Shanks said, "and they can change their availability as school changes — whether they want two days a week or four days a week. They don't have a set schedule."

It's that level of understanding of their employees' needs that helped earn Yogurtology rave reviews from its staff.

"We all work hard and take care of each other," one employee wrote on the Top Workplaces survey.

The company uses a mystery shopper program at its Florida operations to make sure things (yogurt and otherwise) are running smoothly. Anonymous customers head into the shops and report back their experience to the company heads.
Top Workplaces: Many of Tampa Bay's Top Workplaces have a lot of unique perks.

It might be a self-serve yogurt shop, but Yogurtology employees are expected to help customers as they go about creating their own froyo "masterpiece." They greet customers with a hello and a smile, volunteer free flavor samples — there's typically more than a dozen available at a time — and guide shoppers through the overwhelming number of available yogurt fixings.

If a mystery shopper reports an especially helpful employee by name, they can get a $25 Visa gift card. Employees also are rewarded if their shop gets high marks from the shopper's report.

The mystery shopper grades are used to declare a manager of the year, who gets a bonus for their efforts.

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Those managers are also given a chance to meet with each other and with the company's owners at quarterly meetings, where staffers from all the Florida locations come together at a shop. Shanks said that level of communication allows every manager to feel informed and connected to any company-wide decisions.

"We really rely our communication," Shanks said. "They're casual meetings but also productive, as we try to keep everyone connected."

Employees say they have the freedom to be creative and feel supported by management. The company owners are not scared to try new things.

"We're much more than just frozen yogurt," Shanks said.

The South Tampa location has a coffee bar with nitro brews and bubbly Kombucha on tap. The same location just started testing an acai bar. And then there's the crowd-favorite: dog yogurt.

Employees like to stick around and become shift leaders and managers.
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"A big perk for our employees is growth within the brand," Shanks said. "We really love to promote within whenever possible."

It's easy to assume fast-food (or, in this case, dessert) retail can be a pretty thankless job.

But with just around 10 employees per location, Shanks said each store becomes its own family.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

ABOUT THE COMPANY
Yogurtology of Florida, LLC is a self-serve frozen yogurt chain with headquarters in Tampa. It operates six locations in the area. It also has franchise locations, including one at the Tampa airport and a few in Arizona.
Employees: 90 (in Tampa Bay)
Location: Tampa
Website: www.yogurtology.com

EMPLOYEE COMMENTS

"The people are what I like the most about my job. I enjoy servicing our customers and love my teammates. Managers are supportive to our needs."

"I am always recognized for the work I do. Everyone is treated like family."

"I like staying busy … interacting with our customers, learning new things and moving up."