Sunday, September 21, 2008

The P-town Culture Club

I am sorry for the long hiatus since my last post. Tyler and I have been doing some important field research at the many yogurt shops that have sprouted up around Provo this year. Provo seems to consistently invite enthusiastic entrepreneurs to try their business ideas out. Tyler and I have noticed a quick turn around time for businesses here to open, try a new product, and close. Perhaps it has to do with the close proximity of the Marriott School of Business. Whatever the cause, though, the truth is that the businesses here seem to change almost yearly, and several similar ones just sprouted up in the past few months.

For the "pure yogurt" craze, it all started with Yoasis, which found its home as a replacement for Glazies in the strip mall at Bulldog and Freedom, creatively entitled "The Corner" (which has always seemed to have this blatant and desperate desire to become a popular hangout for BYU students). Yoasis seems to have that same goal in mind, and seeing as Tyler and I are generally anti-establishment, we vowed never to go. Our curiosity quickly got the best of us, and we shamefully tried a number of times to patronize this strange new place, but left each time, too turned off by the long line of morons inside. We finally bought our first pure yogurt in the middle of a weekday from the "paradise" at The Corner. The first taste of these pure yogurts is a little shocking. It is much more bitter than your standard frozen yogurt. It definitely feels healthier, leaving you with a nice feeling afterwards. It's as if you feel like you have done something good for your body. We returned a couple of times for the intriguing new taste despite the high cost.

Then, within a few months, we saw "Spoon Me," "Red Mango," and "Hello Yogurt" all sprout up in different areas around Provo and Orem. Tyler and I were further intrigued. Not by the apparent "demand" for pure yogurt, but by the sheer audacity and confidence that these new places displayed. We set out to attend each one and note their strengths and weaknesses, hopefully determining which yogurt reigns supreme. This research has been thorough, the results have been compelling, and we now display them for your education and interest.

Update for our readers outside of Utah (both of them): "Pure Yogurt" is frozen yogurt that has not had any artificial flavors added, making it both tart and creamy. This yogurt is considered to be more healthy than flavored frozen yogurt because it uses natural ingredients and has live and active culture counts in amounts that researchers have determined to have positive health benefits as certified by the National Yogurt Association. (See for more details.) It's as if you were to buy plain yogurt at the store and stick it in a soft-serve machine. I suppose what makes people want to go to one of these places, as opposed to say "trying to find a TCBY that hasn't closed down yet," is the feeling that you are doing something healthy for your body. Plus, everyone's doing it!!! You'll read below all the reasons why having pure yogurt is "cool."


This was the first experience we had with the concept of "pure yogurt." The yogurt is tangy and tasty, but the service needs some fine tuning. When we have been there, they only have one person working, and each yogurt is prepared with such care and precision that it becomes a borderline obnoxious ordeal. We definitely slow the whole process by ordering bananas as a topping. They slice the banana very thinly while it's still in the peel, then awkwardly use the peel to stick it around the rim of the yogurt. The slicing and placing of the banana takes a good 60 seconds or so. The only times we've gone, we haven't even had to wait in line, and it has taken 5 minutes for them to prepare our yogurts. I cannot imagine what the wait time would be on a Friday night with a line of 30 people in it.

Yoasis is definitely the most spacious of all of the establishments. There are many tables, including booths, to sit at, and since it adjoins Teriyaki Stix and Hogi Yogi, one can order a full meal befre topping it off with pure yogurt. The decor is clean and modern, but the plasma televisions showing nature videos are a little off-putting. I suppose it is to accentuate the "natural" and "paradisaical" theme of the place, but its weekly live rock music, Wii tournaments, and Rock Band jams seem decidedly un-natural and conflict with the theme Yoasis is trying to have me buy into. I know these events are simply an attempt to gain a community following, but as a result, I just get the idea that Yoasis is trying too hard.

As far as price goes, the yogurt is a little expensive, and the toppings are cleverly distributed as one topping for $1.25, two toppings for $1.50, and three toppings for $2.00. It forces you to buy more toppings for a better deal, when I am pretty sure you get the same amount of topping either way, you just pay for the agency of choosing more than one item.

Yogurt: 4/5 Decor: 4/5 Value: 3/5 Atmosphere: 2/5

Red Mango:

This little shop was much more impressive. It had the same sort of modern decor, but gave a more exclusive dessert club feel instead of the "we'll take anyone" desperation that Yoasis exhibited. The thing was, I believed Red Mango. The interior colors were sheek and smart, and all of the design seemed very coherant and consistant. While the patrons in Yoasis were a turn-off, we felt like we were friends with all of the hipsters here in Red Mango. Also, it's located in Orem, so the personnel seemed naturally more edgy. Their menu offered a bit more variety, but the pricing system was very similar to Yoasis. Here at Red Mango, however, the price seemed more called-for in an upscale dessert shop like this one. I know that I was paying for the quality and the experience. The yogurt had a similar tangy zip, but tasted higher in quality with a little bit more creaminess to it that Yoasis didn't seem to have. Overall, we had a great experience at Red Mango and enjoyed the exclusive yet inclusive atmosphere. We did not have any complaints here.

Yogurt: 5 Decor: 5 Value: 4 Atmosphere: 5

Hello Yogurt:

This shop, located next to Sensuous Sandwich in Orem, was definitely the most different of the bunch. You can tell that it is geared to a much different audience. While the furniture remained true to the Mod Ikea look, the rest of the place looked like a local ice cream shop that you remember from your childhood (my childhood being in the 80's with the recession).

The pricing system was the most innovative we had seen. The yogurt and toppings are priced solely on weight at $.38/oz. They offer the largest selection of yogurt flavors (while still including the "tart original") and toppings, and the entire place is self-serve. You take your cup and put as much or as little of any number of yogurt flavors and/or toppings. This gives a sense of freedom unprecedented at dessert parlors. You get exactly what you want, without worrying about getting the best value. To further ensure that you get what you will like, they have set up a table with little cups for tasting. Sine there is no direct supervision of the yogurt dispensing machines, you can try as many flavors as you need in order to decide what you want the most. The price is very modest as well, I got a pretty big yogurt, and paid less than I had at any of the other yogurt places.

The only downside to this place is the lack of supervision. We wondered how efficient the service would be if a lot of people came in to get yogurt at the same time. This place leaves the efficiency up to the patrons. Having been to both Disneyland and Disney World in the past year, and seen a major difference in the way the two are run, I can tell you that it makes a big difference between ensuring efficiency and trying to let it happen on its own. Also, it was interesting to see how many people had trouble operating the yogurt machines on their own. Perhaps it's because I spent many meals at Furr's Cafeteria and Home Town Buffet, but I thought everyone knew how to dispense yogurt sanitarily into their cup. Instead we saw some adults squirting samples into a cup, licking the top, then pressing their ABL cup right up under the dispenser again for more. That's gross to me. But besides the occasional residue left by other customers that might end up in your cup, it tasted great and the price was well worth it!

Yogurt (plain): 3 Decor: 2 Value: 5 Atmosphere: 4

Spoon Me:

This may be the most disappointing for us. My first impression was that they are trying harder than all of the others. The interior looks as if it were designed by an interior design enthusiast as opposed to someone who has experience, and the menu offered the least agency of them all. In Spoon Me's scenario, you can choose from original, green tea, or Acai Berry yogurt, but the toppings are one blanket price. If you want toppings, you pay for the right to have them and then you can choose up to three. This bugged me. I had to clarify with the lady that that is really how they do things.

The biggest turn-off, however were the labels on the bathroom doors which just added to the interior confusion. The men's said "Yo Homie" and the women's said "Yo Mama."...This just didn't seem to mix with the androgynous modern design that the rest of the place was trying (unsuccessfully) to embody. I didn't like those doors.

I will, however, give one prop to Spoon Me in their attempt to be more eco-friendly. Their spoons are crazy-thick and seem like they were made for babies, but are so because they are completely biodegradable, or "fully compostable." Their cups, too, claim to save a billion watts of energy a year or something like that. I liked that. I mean, why not use products that are good for the environment? Their trash, then, was fully compostable, and as a result, this business could do its part in saving a lot of energy. It's too bad that I'm not going to go there anymore.

Yogurt: 2 Decor: 3 Value: 2 Atmosphere: 2

As you can see by this research, all yogurt places may not equal. Do not be discouraged if you haven't found the pure yogurt place for you. It is only a matter of time before one pops up that may satisfy your particular yearning. For us, it's Red Mango and Hello Yogurt, depending on what experience we're in the mood for.

Note: These reactions are based on isolated experiences at each of the establishments. Further investigations could not be performed due to lack or research funds. If you have had experiences that conflict or are in harmony with the above results, please describe your reactions. Thank you.


Miranda said...

That was intesnse.
I have yet to try the yogurt craze. I was 'this' close last time I was at SLC airport, but the line was too long.
We will have to go to Red Mango when I come up. Of course Orem is way more edgy than Provo. It's not like any BYU freshman can just walk there.
The Yo Mamma thing kinda made me laugh, but I can see how it is also 'try hard.'
This whole discussion makes me miss the multitude of dinning options in Provo. Alas.

Marianne said...

I was wondering about he overpopulation of yogurt places. It does seem like a lot. I haven't tried any of them yet because it just seemed too exhausting to try each one. Thanks for the reviews. I can now start with the best ones and not bother with the rest.

Aaron said...

I'm going to admit to being a little confused. For the benefit of any others out there like me, can you please explain:

A) what is "pure yogurt"?

2) how does it differ from, say, this yoplait I had this morning?

D) What are the supposed benefits of this pure yogurt that make someone seek out one of these places instead of trying to find a TCBY that hasn't closed?

danniey said...

I believe I have addressed your questions in an update on our post. Let me know if there is any other confusion.

Carson said...

Is Fro-Yo "pure yogurt?" Is it still there?

danniey said...

Carson, if you refer to the definition of "pure yogurt" as described in the post you will see that Provo Fro-Yo does not fit. It is still here, and the mere face that it is not included in this review should give you a clue as to the pureness of its yogurt. Perhaps you just felt like it wasn't getting enough attention and you had to give it a shout-out...

Carson said...

Oh yeah. I love Fro-Yo. So much. I want to marry it I love it so much because I've really been there more than twice. More like a bazillion times. I LOVEEEEEE ITTTT!!!!!!!!! SOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!! Me and my besties would go there like seriously every. single. day. No joke. Love love love it. So much. That is why I asked such completely illegitimate question that deserved to be shoved into a frozen yogurt machine, clumsily placed into an already used cup, and fed to some tiny little monster child who got half of it in his mouth and the rest down his front. Then he barfed it up later (all metaphorically of course).

I love Provo Fro-Yo.

Leah Florence said...

Well now I know exactly where to turn if I ever feel like eating frozen yogurt again...thank you for your extensive research.