is pinkberry that good? [moved from L.A. board]
There are plenty of Pinkberries that are virtually empty so parking and lines aren't that big of a problem. I resisted for a very long time, but since I was already parked to go to M Cafe de Chaya on Melrose I stopped in at the one next door. It was completely empty at prime lunch hour. I was pleasantly surprised since I don't usually crave frozen yogurt but it's really refreshingly sour after a meal and not too sweet. I thought it was crazy, though, that you can only get a green tea-plain swirl in a larger size.
All in all I prefer ceFiore in Little Tokyo which seems less expensive and more accomodating.
No. Just kidding... Like everything else we put in our mouthes, it's all subjective. With that said, one cannot deny that PB built its popularity on putting out product that appeals to many people; thus, the lines. However, many also feel that it's heading down the road of the Krispy Kremes craze as well - I don't know how familiar you are with that whole story, but many of the similarities are there. Five years ago, a box of Krispy Kremes was treated as if it was worth its weight in gold. Today, it's an also-ran. We were at a potluck picnic yesterday. The only box of KK's was more than half-full at 2PM, while the box of Winchell's right next to it was about a third full. A small sample in the case of scientifically approached statistics, but you get the picture.
PB still has the magic with a fair amount of people, but they are also starting to peeve alot of loyal as well as newer less enthusiastic eaters as well. The biggest complaint for most has been the parsimonious portions of toppings spooned out by PB staff. What amounts to pennies - literally - while at the same time being charged royally for these toppings is bad enough. But what appears to be an edict being sent down from the self-deemed lofty halls of their corporate gurus is for PB staff to dole out the toppings, especially their fresh fruit, in a manner to suggest that these items were not pennies per serving, but more like precious commodities on the scale of white truffles from Tusacany, or fruit from the gods (and not from El Salvador).
PB's biggest points of "addiction" to their product for those described as "Crackberry addicts," is the flavor and texture of their froyo. The flavor is very tart - much like a tart refrigerated yogurt - I feel it tastes somewhat ascorbic. The texture is somewhat icy and has a sort of crunch to it. Imagine a team of little elves wearing polar gear had a work station in the froyo machine and were shooting thousands tiny little ice balls from a ice ball gun with the barrel about the diameter of a swizzle stick that you use to stir your coffee with into the froyo just before it was dispensed.
The combination of sourishness and texture is their unique take on froyo that results in a refreshing snack or dessert. Many enjoy PB froyo because it doesn't taste overly sweet either, and some of those even proclaim or assume that because it doesn't taste overly sweet and/or it is associated with yogurt, that it is actually healthy for you. This is easily divined but one needs to be cautious about these simplistic theories.
For example, most think that lemons do not have much if any sugar in them. However, the sourishness of the higher levels of ascorbic and citric acid masks the sugar content. The reality is, sugar content in all citrus, with all other things being equal, is very similar. The apparent taste for sweetness is ultimately determined by the level of acidity. Ask any dietician if incorporating orange juice into a diet in place of apple or other juices that are perportedly sweet-tasting, and they will tell you that doing so is a wash in terms of simple carbs. So to think that the relative low sweetness in taste make this a healthier option is questionable.
Also assuming that any yogurt-based product is healthy for you is turning a blind eye to products like yogurt-coated nuts or raisins. The bacterial cultures in products like these are inactive - dead - there is no nutritional benefit from the yogurt other than it may contain calcium. As the bacilli break down lactose, one of the by-products is lactic acid which gives the tartness to yogurt. However, the groups of active bacilli in the fermentation process are a very tempermental and fragile thing, and freezing temperatures render it inactive. In other words, the healthful benefits of froyo from this point are debatable as well.
The whole froyo resurgence created by PB has brought along a huge amount of clones and lots of competition. As far as shear marketing savvy and strength, PB is still on top, but their rivals are saturating the market to the point that a major froyo faceoff is imminent.
You owe it to yourself to give them a try. The lines won't be so present if you hit a local lesser-primed location if you go during off-peak hours. I've been to the Marina del Rey location at 6:45PM on a weekday to find one or two people in front of me. Conversely, an acquaintant lives next to the one in West Hollywood. She still has trouble getting in and out of her driveway because PB customers use her driveway as an additional parking spot. You can easily assume how she feels about PB.
I don't think the Krispy Kreme analogy works all that well for one reason, calories.
Pinkberry, ceFiore,etc... are only 25 calories an oz. which is a huge part of their appeal. Most Americans can't afford to go calorically crazy so, PB, cF are excellent options for those watching their waistline.
I find the new froyo flavors (green tea, pom-rasberry, plain) really appeal to my palate. So much so that I tried to eat ice cream last night and could even finish a small scoop because it was so cloyingly sweet. I guess I'm now used to the tartness and lighter quality of PB and its clones.
In a recent published report that listed all 50 states in order of fitness, California came in the bottom third. People ideally would like to eat healthy, but in reality do quite a bit of compromising. Yes, PB is a better snack/dessert alternative than KK, but that's like comparing, well, yogurt and donuts - they share some similarities in being in the snack/dessert category for some, but I personally don't weigh my snack choices btween a donut and froyo - two completely different food items that satisfy different pangs.
Maybe I was a little ambiguous in my analogy. PB is currently enjoying a large amount popularity because their product in terms of unique qualities (not quality which I'm not questioning at this point for their yogurt - their toppings are another story - try their chocolate chips and mochi balls and give us your opinion) and unique marketing strategies. Aside from their direct consumers praising PB, PB also experiences through their choice of locations, an effect best described by Yogie Berra, which I heard couple of monthes back on a "Good Food" interview on KCRW. The NY Times Food correspondent was being interviewed about PB by Evan Kleiman. Asked to describe the phenomenon, the NY Times reporter said, "Well, as Yogie Berra once said, 'No one goes there - it's too crowded...'" Read the OP's question and that's proof enough.
They have gone from a very local product - one, then five, and now all of a sudden 54 planned or opened locations. These points of comparison overlap with the KK story well but on a much more local scale for the most part. The point I'm trying to emphasize is that when a supplier of goods or services experiences a huge amount of demand, the natural response is to increase the supply. The concern in both KK's and PB's cases are, how fast is too fast? KK has already proven that their approach - hypergrowth - was a disaster, both in terms of their financial health as well as the ultimate consumer experience - especially quality (this may answer poster coreyander's point).
When a firm is experiencing diminishing returns as a result of exponentially increasing levels of overhead, debt, negative cashflow, which is further eroded by growing competition eating away at sales, one of the first reactions is typically to reduce the cost of the ultimate product. In PB's case, this is already apparent. The reduction in the quantity served per topping has been reviled by posters already (I've experienced the same - especially the fresh fruit toppings.) These are their high-margin products, where the consumer is charged bank for a quanitity that would have cost a few pennies. Now with the serving size of toppings even further reduced, they are in essence increasing their margin on these high-profit items by another 30-60% (that's based on my personal experience of the approx. serving size reductions). They are actually counting the number of blackberries, half-slices of bananas, and pieces of mango now as they dole them out so preciously.
And like KK, PB is surrounded by small mom&pop-type operations as well as some smaller chains that appear to be stepping up expansion - at a much more reasonable rate - to gain market share. One of PB's strengthes that may turn into a long-term weakness is the amount capitalization that goes into the design aspects of their shops. It ain't cheap to install 6-8 complete setups of chairs and tables from Kartell, as well as sourcing and installing zebrawood interior facades, etc. Multiply this by 54 and you start getting the picture. These are all items that pimp up the PB experience, but only time will tell if they have a longterm return. Meanwhile, places like Mondo Gelato keep chugging along, serving up froyo and gelato at a much lower capitalization point.
Don't get me wrong. I like PB's product - like, not love. If others feel the same as I do, then I hope PB has investors with very deep pockets, because I for one have no problem getting my froyo elsewhere - too many other great choices with alot less attitude and hassle...
The last time I bought a frozen yogurt there it was really bland and unsatisfying. I went a few days ago to the Bevery Hills location at around 2p.m. on a weekday, no line. When I first tried it at the Weho location when it first opened and there weren't any lines, I really liked it, but now I wouldn't go back...I don't know something was missing or maybe it's just really boring with only one flavor (yes there is the green tea, but that doesn't count). The toppings are also dull--and they weigh everything, it's really lame and cheap how they approach it. I don't like stingy places, it removes much of the pleasure that is supposed to be derived from these types of establishments.
Still though, go try it--don't go on the weekend and you most likely will not stand in line...worst case scenario you spend 3 or 4 dollars and don't like it...
Don't go at a peak hour, but definitely try them out sometime. I think the yogurt is good, but not the mindblowing decadence of - say - a fresh NC Krispy Kreme (the KK story above misses the point that the decline of KK was a matter of sacrificing quality for national sales more than anything else). Rather, it is the sort of snack that you find yourself craving, even if you weren't blown over by it while you are eating it. I think the key to pinkberry is that it is simple: tart yogurt, fresh fruit, not oversweetened or overflavored, very versatile (I could imagine it for brunch as well as midnight snack), and all-around enjoyable. It isn't the best thing ever - and the cost is sort of ridiculous - but you should at least try it once.