Monday, September 19, 2011

Rant: Does Dunkin' Donuts Need Some Voodoo?

In New England, Dunkin' Donuts is extremely popular though it seems to sell more coffee than donuts. Yet most of its business occurs in the morning, and it is then when you will most likely have to wait in line, whether in the store or in the drive through. There are other donuts stores in New England, from chains like Honey Dew Donuts to small independents like Kane's Donuts in Saugus. Yet most of their traffic is in the morning as well. Stop by in the evening, if they are even open, and you will likely find a limited selection of donuts though you usually won't have to wait in any line.

Why is that so? Are donuts only a breakfast item? How often do you enjoy donuts at night?

I think that all of these local donut shops are doing something wrong. They should be busy at night, and not just in the morning. It can be done, they just need a touch of Voodoo, and I don't mean the Haitian religion. They need to be more like Voodoo Doughnuts, which has stores in Portland and Eugene in Oregon. I recently visited Portland and stopped by Voodoo Doughnuts on a Thursday evening at about 9pm. There was a line leading out the door! I don't think I have ever seen another donut shop with such a line at night.

They serve a diverse selection of funky donuts, including the widely popular Bacon Maple Bar, the Captain My Captain (which uses Captain Crunch cereal), the Dirt Doughnut (with crushed Oreos), and the Old Dirty Bastard (with crushed Oreos and peanut butter). They even make an assortment of Vegan Doughnuts. All of their doughnuts are made by hand so they are not made in large lots, and what you see in the glass cases is what is available. They are intended to be eaten on the day of purchase and they will not ship them anywhere. The only place you can get them is Oregon.

The customers are going there primarily for the donuts, not the coffee, and you see plenty of their pink boxes, containing a dozen donuts, walk out the door. When I asked people about Voodoo before I went to Portland, it received many raves, especially for the Bacon Maple Bar. It is more than just hype which brings people there at night. So why are their donuts so much more popular than what we currently have in New England? Does the northwest region have more donut lovers than New England? Or is it due to the quality and diversity of the Voodoo donuts?

I would like to think New England has plenty of donut lovers who merely need a special destination where they could procure some incredible donuts. I would certainly buy donuts at night if they were high quality and more unique products. How about you? Does New England need a "Voodoo-like" shop to satiate our appetite for fresh donuts?


Frederick Wright said...

Richard - Dunkin Donuts hasn't been the same since they stopped making donuts on site. These indulgent pastry treats are simply not worth the calories since they are just coming from a big factory somewhere and have no taste other than numbing sugar.

I'm on a quest to find a good local donut maker here in Boston that can compete with the awesome ones in New York. And by Boston, I mean Boston. Not Saugus or some other unreachably remote suburb.

Jason Phelps said...


I am glad you got to Voodoo. When we were in Portland in May of 2010 we were short on time and the 1+ hour wait mid-day was more than we could handle. What we had heard made us sad about that, but such is life.

We already knew of Top Pot Donuts in Seattle that while not the same does offer a similar twist on donuts. We've been there a few times and feel the same way about donuts back home as you.


Ryan Reichert said...

Richard - I'm not sure if Dunkin' Donuts could capture the same "magic" that Voodoo has. You've got to remember—they've only got three locations, and that one you visited in PDX is a big hub. That said, after their recent remodel, as a local I feel they've lost quite a lot of their charm, but I understand the need for them to have a bigger space to handle the traffic they see. As Frederick and you both put it, the quality of the product is a big issue. DD's size I would imagine is what keeps them from making donuts in house, so they're likely not going to be as good (even if it were only a perceptional issue!). Sure with the spring of "Portlandism" happening in other areas though (I read recently that apparently Brooklyn is the next Portland?) you're bound to find a comparable donut solution on the east coast ... but I wouldn't count on it being wide spread, or even easily accessible if you don't live in whatever area that might be. Alternative: move to PDX ;-)

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Frederick:
Offhand, I don't know any top notch, independent donut shops in Boston. The good ones I know are all in the suburbs. A few Boston bakeries may make a couple donuts, but none are primarily donuts.

Hey Jason:
I enjoyed Top Pot too when I was in Seattle. Local Starbucks sometimes carry Top Pots but they never seem too fresh. If you go to the WBC12, then we will have to make a stop at Voodoo.

Hi Ryan:
I do agree that with the size of DD, they will never be able to provide those freshly baked donuts you find in the independent shops. But that doesn't mean an independent shop in the Boston area could not arise and occupy a Voodoo like spot here. I can dream. :)

nicole said...

in Ct by our boat, if we went to DD for tea or hot chocolate we would generally leave with free donuts or munchins since they were just going to dump them later. they were fresh but there was no line.

I wish that New England had great donut places. I like doughnut plant in NYC.

kat_cafe said...

It is one of the largest coffee and baked goods chains in the world,
with more than 12,000 restaurants in 36 countries.
The chain’s products include doughnuts, bagels, other baked goods,
and a variety of hot and iced beverag

dunkin's guest experience survey