16 Handles was founded by Solomon Choi, who serves as president and CEO. In July 2008, Choi opened the first 16 Handles store in the East Village in Manhattan, near the New York University dorms. It was the first self-serve frozen yogurt shop in New York, and the success of the self-serve format spawned hundreds of imitators on the East Coast. In November 2009, Choi opened a second location, at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. After receiving multiple inquires about franchising opportunities, in 2010 the company began expanding through franchising. By early 2011, there were 10 locations, and as of February 2015, there are 40 locations in 6 states.
In June 2014, 16 Handles announced plans to open 150 stores in the Middle East over the next 10 years in a development deal with Abu Issa Marketing and Distribution, with anticipated stores in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
All 16 Handles stores are self-serve, with customers building their own frozen yogurt sundaes and paying by weight. Each location has a rotating roster of 16 frozen yogurt flavors on tap. Flavors include cookies & cream, coffee, fudge brownie, salted caramel, mango, peanut butter, Euro tart, vanilla, chocolate and graham cracker. Over 40 toppings are available, including fruit, candy, syrup, granola, carob chips and yogurt chips. All 16 Handles frozen yogurts are probiotic, and most are also nonfat and gluten-free. Non-dairy sorbet, no-sugar and low-fat options are also available, as well as seasonal menu items, such as a hot cocoa launched in December 2014, and special edition flavors, such as Caramel Popcorn, launched in May 2014 to coincide with the Tony Awards. All of the yogurts and most of the toppings are certified kosher, and some of the locations themselves are certified kosher.
In 2013, 16 Handles introduced artisanal flavors, along with frozen custard. Some of the artisanal flavors use real fruit in the yogurt itself, and 16 Handles also offers a vegan soft-serve made with coconut water.
In February 2015, the 16 Handles store in New York's Chelsea neighborhood began offering breakfast in the morning, serving Greek yogurt, hot oatmeal bowls and acai bowls, with topping options including fresh fruit, vegetables, granola, raw pumpkin seeds and raisins. The store switches back to frozen yogurt starting in the afternoon. Like the frozen yogurt, the refrigerated yogurt is sold by the ounce. The company plans on adding the breakfast format to additional 16 Handles locations over the course of 2015. Also in 2015, 16 Handles began offering coffee and tea at select locations.
16 Handles has 40 locations in the following US states:Connecticut
In 2013, 16 Handles launched the "Snappy New Year" campaign, a promotion of short advertisements through Snapchat, a mobile app that allows users to send photo messages that self-destruct after 10 seconds or less. With the campaign, 16 Handles was the first brand to create and execute a marketing campaign using Snapchat.
16 Handles also sponsors a 24-hour online radio station called HitBound Radio that broadcasts non-stop contemporary international hits.
The "Snappy New Year" campaign earned 16 Handles Mashable's 2013 Mashie Rising Star award for digital marketing.
In July 2014, 16 Handles was listed at #15 on Restaurant Business magazine's Future 50, an annual ranking of the fastest-growing small chains in the US.
16 Handles was featured as a location on a 2014 episode of the HBO television series Girls, in season 3, episode 8. In 2015, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn location was featured on the Comedy Central television series Broad City, in season 2, in which it was renamed 42 Squirts. Celebrities who have been spotted at 16 Handles include Jonah Hill, Katie Holmes and Daniel Radcliffe.