Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On Frozen Yogurt and Other Endangered Foods

In this post on the novel I'm writing in November, 1jpb links to ZPS's blog entry on Penguin's Frozen Yogurt.

Penguin's used to be everywhere. Now they're not. ZPS wonders why.

I discussed this phenomenon with a savvy investor person not as related to Penguin's, but as it related to Boston Market. He pointed out that there are very good financial reasons to hyperinflate a company until it bursts--provided you know how to get out before it actually does so.

This happens a lot. Not just with trendy foods, because yogurt was pretty trendy and it's reasonable to think that any given food trend will pass, as it did with cajun and with--well, does anyone remember the chocolate chip cookie boutique days? That predated yogurt a bit.

So, there perhaps aren't as many Mrs. Fields as there used to be because of some financial shenanigans--but there are still some cookie boutiques. Same with Penguin's and frozen yogurt. I don't know of an equivalent to Boston Market, at least around here, but we seem to have trouble supporting "American food" here. No more Roger's Roasters, but plenty of chicken places. Salad bars seem to have mostly vanished, to be replaced by buffets, which I suppose are mostly "American food". (Though the salad bar places used to be pretty high quality, more upscale for a place that made you get your own food, and the buffets seem to be decidedly low rent.) The Sizzler adapted itself a couple of times, including into and out of the "salad bar" phase, though I think it's finally gone for good.

Bob's Big Boy--and going back a ways, The Copper Penny (I think that was just local) and Sambo's, and more recently, Baker's Square and Coco's: All American diner's that used to be everywhere and now aren't.

The upshot is that there are foods that you used to be able to get and now can't, or can't easily. This is a sign of impending old age.

Most of the foods that I like that no longer exist were not from big chains but from little mom & pop shops that went away. Spaghetti from Mike's Pizza (in Encino or Panorama City), a Pageburger Club from Page's (Encino), A Poor Boy Pizza from Jo Mama's (Burbank) or a carob shake from a little shack outside an arcade in Westwood.

The carob shake was insidious. You'd drink a little bit and not like it. But then you'd drink a little more. And by the time you got to the bottom, you were hooked. It was sweet, but a little bitter as well.

Anyway, whaat do you think about remembering lost foods, lost loves, lost places? I tend to think one should severely restrict it, lest one end up sitting on a rocker on the porch, awash in the past, and telling the kids about the orange groves stretching out "as far as the eye can see".


  1. That's funny, because there used to be tons of TCBY yogurt shops all over the place out here, and all of a sudden they vanished. Like, overnight. There's only one left that I can think of and it's one of those skeevy ones that are attached to a Shell station.

    Now there's lots of the "designer" ice cream shops, and of course, Starbucks, and that's where people go now to indulge. But none of those were here yet when all the TCBYs closed down. I guess it was just a trend that people quickly got over. I hope Starbucks doesn't go that way, I know they just closed a bunch of stores, although all the ones here in Knoxville were spared.

  2. Well, if it really is motivated by financial shenanigans, you'll see a severe reduction in most any chain after it explodes, I'd think.

    We had a few TCBYs out here, but not like Penguin's. There are still a few left.

    Then there were the muffin shops.

    Ice cream, not so much. We've got a couple Stone-whatevers.

    Other than Starbucks, I can't think of a current trend.

    Starbucks cracks me up because we always used to joke in the '80s, when coffee sales were way down and they were running those commercials about how coffee "calms you down while it picks you up" that all they needed to do was charge $5 for a cup, and all the yuppies would sign on....

  3. There are TONS of Coco's here in So Cal, they've tried to be more upscale I think, offering more trendy dishes.

    I don't mind reminiscing about old restaurants because I am obsessed with food, the various branding strategies, and what their downfalls were.

  4. Say what?

    I'm in So Cal and I haven't seen one in years! Huh. The site says there's one just down the street. I thought that had been shut down.

  5. They are all over Orange County, at least, last time I checked. One near Fashion Island, a bunch in Costa Mesa, one in HB. They have good soup!


Grab an umbrella. Unleash hell. Your mileage may vary. Results not typical. If swelling continues past four hours, consult a physician.