Almost every day for lunch, winter or summer, Elana Bogner heads to the Tasti D-Lite shop near her Manhattan office for a frozen dessert. Her habit started seven years ago when, as a college student, she started substituting one meal a day with the low-calorie treat, hoping to shed some weight.
“I got totally addicted, I couldn’t go a day without it,” Ms. Bogner said.
For the past 20 years, droves of New York residents and tourists have confessed similar cravings. Founded in 1987 by Celeste Carlesimo and her father, Louis Carlesimo, the 75-store chain has such a cultlike following in New York that the low-calorie alternative to ice cream has been parodied on “Seinfeld” and featured on the “Sex and the City” TV show.
Now, the franchising guru behind Mail Boxes Etc. and I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt is betting that such Tasti D-Lite devotees can be cultivated in cities around the world, just as competition among frozen treats is heating up.