The Untold Truth Of sweetFrog

They're popular year round, but when the warmer weather hits, it's hard to argue that there's anything better than a cold, sweet dessert. The first thing that may come to mind would likely be ice cream, but there is a myriad of incredible cool treats to select from and indulge in. Some of these ice cream-like goodies include gelato, popsicles, and, of course, frozen yogurt. Whether you pick it up at the Costco food court or from a specialty frozen yogurt shop, the cool, yogurt-based confection sure can be the perfect treat. One such froyo shop chain is sweetFrog.

If you've spent time on the East Coast, then you've likely seen the cute little cartoon frog logo and the eye-catching pink and green color scheme at any of their 300+ locations. When you hop inside one of these establishments, you are met with a bright store that's filled with loads of different frozen yogurt flavors, toppings, and treats to choose from. It may look simply sweet, but there's more than meets the eye that comes to this frog-themed yogurt chain. Let's jump into the untold truth of sweetFrog.

sweetFrog began when frozen yogurt made a comeback

Frozen yogurt, or "froyo” as the treat has been dubbed by many, has had its ups and downs in terms of popularity. As the Los Angeles Times noted at the time, froyo blew up in the 1980s due to various diet trends, as it was lower in fat than, say, ice cream. Per The New York Times, it started to fade from the spotlight the following decade thanks to the popularity of low-fat ice cream, but by the '00s, froyo was the "it dessert" again. Around that time, sweetFrog came to be.

The frozen yogurt company sweetFrog truly found its footing in the Eastern part of the United States. The chain was started in Virginia by Derek Cha, a businessman who had found success in the framing industry until the economy hit the skids. "My finances were in ruins, and it was the only business I knew," he recalled to Richmond Magazine. But he decided to give a totally different business a try: In 2009, he pivoted to frozen yogurt, and sweetFrog was born.

The two froggie mascots are brother and sister

One of the most recognizable parts of the sweetFrog establishments are the cute mascots you can see all over the shop and the yogurt cups. One of these frogs is depicted as slightly taller, and decked out in a pair of green overalls, while the other mascot is shown wearing a cute pink dress, a giant bow, and an apron with a heart and the sweetFrog logo on it. According to the sweetFrog website, these fun little frogs are named Scoop and Cookie, who are not only on just about anything related to sweetFrog, but also have froyo flavors named after them on the chain's menus: Cookie's Sugar Cookie and Scoop's Cake Batter. 

While this information might not be directly stated on the official website, the sweetFrog Twitter account has confirmed Scoop and Cookie are actually brother and sister. Just when you thought it couldn't get any cuter, right?

The link between Cold Stone and sweetFrog

When a chain is sold to another company, you either don't typically notice it at all, or you really notice it due to the quality of a product either improving, or decreasing in quality to the point of concern. You may order the same, sweet item from a Tim Horton's for four years, then come back to find that it just isn't living up to your expectations anymore. Some ownership transitions, however, go undetected by the public. This is the case for sweetFrog, which has undergone an ownership change not once, but twice since its inception. 

The company's founder, Derek Cha, sold the chain to a local investor in 2015 because he wanted to focus on other restaurant concepts, per Richmond BizSense. The investor, Boxwood Capital Partners, retained the brand up until 2018, when sweetFrog was sold once again. This time, the frozen yogurt name was acquired by an Arizona's Kahala Brands for a total of $35 million, according to Richmond BizSense. Kahala Brands isn't new to sweet treats — popular ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery also happens to be a part of its stable. So if you did see a change in sweetFrog's frozen yogurt, it was likely a positive one.

The founder also has a hot chicken chain

After launching a frozen yogurt chain as successful as sweetFrog, one might assume Derek Cha was ready to rest on his laurels — or at the very least, give a different dessert option a try. Evidently he had completely different culinary ideas he wanted to pursue. After selling sweetFrog, Cha went on to co-found Hangry Joe's Hot Chicken in 2021. As the name suggests, Hangry Joe's Hot Chicken is a Nashville-style hot chicken chain, and as Richmond Bizsense noted, it has expanded rapidly. The menu boasts chicken-based dishes like a chicken sandwich, chicken nuggets, and chicken and waffles. 

As far as we can tell, it looks like the menu does not feature frozen yogurt. So, if you're looking for a cold treat to cool you down after digging into some spicy chicken, you are going to have to make a second stop on the way home. 

The founder also launched food truck

After Derek Cha found success with his frozen yogurt empire sweetFrog and before he decided to get into the world of hot chicken, he gave the food truck scene a shot. As noted in Richmond BizSense, Cha opened a food truck in 2014 under the name Zzaam! Fresh Korean Grill. Per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, when the food truck made its debut, the menu featured items like Korean tacos, bowls, and lettuce wraps. As Food Truck Talk noted at the time, "The menu is simple, but the flavors are strong."

According to a 2017 Chesterfield Observer story, Zzaam! Fresh Korean Grill went on to open multiple brick-and-mortar locations with an expanded menu. However, this chain was not able take off like sweetFrog did; while there are still some locations open as of this writing, a 2021 Richmond BizSense report described the chain as being a "failure."

How the pandemic impacted sweetFrog

Per CNBC, as of February 2022, around 90,000 eateries around the United States had either temporarily or permanently closed their doors due to the global pandemic. And frozen yogurt chain sweetFrog was one of the many companies impacted by COVID-19. Per Penn Live, the store located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, announced on Facebook in June 2021 that it would be closing for good. In November 2020, the Sampson Independent reported the Clinton, North Carolina, shop was done. A manager stated, "Our lease was up at the end of the month and then COVID affected the business so much it wasn't in the funds to renew our contract at the end of the month." The Asheboro, North Carolina, location shared on Facebook in April 2020 that they would no longer be in operation. 

The sweetFrog locations that are still around are standing strong, and the chain has managed to open some locations over the past few years, including one in Loudoun County, Virginia. While there hasn't been too much big news surrounding the expansion of this frozen yogurt company, it's safe to say it seems sweetFrog will be sticking around for a while.

The founder was found guilty of domestic battery

It's rare to find a food chain is that is without controversy or scandal. Some restaurants end up under fire after a customer finds pests roaming around the establishment, while others have to deal with finding gross items inside of their beverages. The person who created sweetFrog has also ended up in trouble, but not for anything involving the frozen yogurt chain. Rather, it had to do with some disturbing details regarding his personal life. 

In 2019, Derek Cha was charged with domestic battery, and accused of strangling and threatening to stab his wife, according to NBC Washington. He was found guilty of domestic battery in August that year, and not guilty of the other two charges. Cha was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

sweetFrog honors veterans

To show appreciation to veterans, many restaurants and stores offer deals to those who have served. And sweetFrog is definitely on that list. "We're thankful and grateful for the men and women who made the brave decision to wear a uniform of the armed forces to serve and protect this great country of ours," CEO Patrick Galleher said in a 2017 statement. And this thankfulness goes beyond giving in-store discounts to vets. Per the sweetFrog website, when Entrepreneur rounded up the "Top Franchises for Veterans" in 2017, the froyo company was 23rd out of 500, due to the brand's emphasis on programs that assist veterans in becoming franchise owners. 

Per the company website, Galleher said in 2016, "That passion, drive and commitment is one of the biggest reasons servicemen and women are a perfect fit for franchise companies seeking qualified candidates who know how to execute a well-refined blueprint for success. We are proud of our nation's heroes and look forward to adding more veterans to our franchise family."

You can paint at sweetFrog, too

When you have a reason to celebrate something, you obviously want to do something special to make said celebration all the more memorable. Whether you happen to be ringing in a friend's birthday or congratulating your kid on an impressive report card, you can never go wrong with a sweet dessert. And if you're looking for a sweet dessert and you happen to be near a sweetFrog, froyo might just be what the party doctor ordered. Though you don't always need a reason to go out or buy frozen yogurt, it's always a fun thing to have at parties, and sweetFrog is fully aware of this.

The sweetFrog website has an entire page dedicated to party planning surrounding the frozen yogurt shops. Not only will they deliver frozen yogurt to your party, or help you hold a birthday party at one of their locations, but sweetFrog also offers "sweetArt Paint Parties," in which an art teacher will teach an art class, and you'll get to enjoy some cool frozen yogurt. Even if you aren't Picasso or Leonardo da Vinci, painting and froyo is a delicious combination. 

sweetFrog holds elections for their froyo flavors

With all of the incredible flavors of ice cream, smoothies, and of course, froyo, it's not easy to pick the top of the tops. Among all of the incredibly bright and colorful frozen yogurts that line the walls of each sweetFrog, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the options.

Back in 2019, sweetFrog asked customers to vote for their favorite frozen yogurt flavor. Patrons were able to walk into their local shops, fill out a ballot, and drop it in a voting box. Furthermore, by voting in this sweet election, members of sweetFrog's loyalty program were also treated to a 20% discount on their next froyo purchase. Though the brand said they would post the results on their social media after the votes were tallied, we were not able to find the winner of the election. So as far as we know, the top froyo flavor sweetFrog has to offer is still up for debate.

The founder wants to build a water park

The founder of sweetFrog decided he wanted to make a splash with another one of his business endeavors — literally. As Richmond BizSense reported in 2016, Derek Cha, along with his business partner, Brett Burkhart, had a vision to create a water park in Chesterfield, Virginia. According to the outlet, it would not be your typical water park that only features slides and pools. The plan also includes outdoor activities like rock climbing and zip lining, plus residential and commercial space.

Unsurprisingly, it has taken a lot of time and behind-the-scenes work to get this massive project going. In 2021, RichmondBizSense noted that the development, which has been dubbed The Lake, was still very much in the planning stages. Oh, and the water park element is apparently just the cherry on top of the froyo. "The park was really designed to be more of a dry experience than a wet experience," Burkhart said. "The wet experience, the surf and the lake, are just the attractions that make it unique." While this water park/shopping center/condo complex is still a ways away from being completed, we can't help but wonder if there will be any frozen yogurt available on the property.