The yogurt chain now has three stores in Seattle proper, with additional locations in Bellevue, Redmond, and Lynnwood. Red Mango opened its first shop in Los Angeles in 2007, and now has 120 outlets nationwide.
Tasked with explaining the chain's success in an era tagged post-yogurt by some sweets-industry experts, many observers have cited the store's decor and self-service strategy. But founder Dan Kim credits social media for making Red Mango a hot franchise from Chicago to Seattle. Kim, who has 30,000 Twitter followers, yesterday addressed The New York Times Small Business Summit on the topic of connecting with customers.
But can Red Mango continue to connect with yogurt eaters in a city notoriously wary of massive chains? I put the question to Kristy Yang, a frozen-yogurt connoisseur in Dallas, where Red Mango is headquartered.
"Yogurt connoisseur" is a title that carries significant weight in Dallas, where more than a dozen yogurt franchises have multiple locations. (One of the byproducts of having spent a brief time in Dallas is feeling like a fast-food prophet: I defy publicists to produce a "coming to Seattle" press release for a chain restaurant I didn't visit in Texas.) Yang--a contributor to our sister paper, the Dallas Observer--has tried them all.
In Dallas, Yang says, Red Mango has positioned its products as "lunch alternatives." "The yogurt itself isn't bad," Yang reports by e-mail. "They use real dairy . . . not all yogurt shops do that. Because of that, I think their yogurt is creamier than other brands."
Yang wouldn't be surprised if Seattleites hear the same message from Red Mango, spread via social networking.