When Kristen Tomlan opened DŌ in New York City last year, the lines around the block made for a fairytale opening any restaurateur would dream of. The people were all waiting for a taste of a childhood ritual: sneaking raw cookie dough.
Prior to opening her bricks-and-mortar store, Tomlan was selling cookie dough online by the pint starting in 2015 and got an idea of how big an idea it was when local customers began showing up to her NYC kitchen (in an unmarked building) in search of the dough.
Now, the customer experience and interaction inside the rainbow-hued store is one of the sweetest parts of the business for Tomlan. The DŌ menu starts with $4 for 1 scoop of cookie dough in a cup or cone, $7 for 2 scoops and 3 scoops for $9. The dough can be mixed and matched with ice cream, and other items include sundaes, ice cream sandwiches and dough that’s been baked into cookies and other items.
Cookie dough at DŌ is sold by the pint, in sundaes and mixed into other desserts. DŌ has been testing the waters with pop-ups in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Montauk, and Tomlan said she definitely hopes to expand.
Americans have an especially soft spot for childhood treats, according to a report by the Culinary Visions Panel, a division of Olson Communications, a marketing firm based in Chicago, Ill.
The 2018 Global Indulgence Report found that 58 percent of American respondents agreed with the statement “I prefer ordering desserts I enjoyed as a child.”
This is more than Europeans, with 38 percent of German respondents and 45 percent of British respondents agreeing.
Cookie dough is now on 3 percent of menus, up 20 percent in the past year and up 49 percent in the past four years, according to Datassential.
“Cookie dough has been steadily growing on menus over the past decade and I expect that growth to continue,” said Mike Kostyo, a Chicago-based trendologist at Datassential.
Due in part that the trend appeals to younger consumers, the data firm expects the trend to grow 15 percent over the next four years, including with plant-based permutations.
Cookie dough as an ingredient also has menu potential, since it can be leveraged in many different applications.
NRN’s Menu Tracker has seen cookie dough additions to menus, including:
· Dairy Queen’s snickerdoodle cookie dough blizzard treat, with cookie dough chunks sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and blended with vanilla soft serve for $2.88-$4.57, depending on size and location.
· A permanent addition of a Peanut Butter Half Baked nondairy dessert at Ben & Jerry’s made with chocolate and peanut-butter almond milk-based frozen dessert with fudge brownies and peanut butter cookie dough.
· Annual Carvel LTO of Cookie Butter ice cream, including the Cookie Butter Sunday Dasher with layers of cookie butter soft serve, Biscoff cookie crumbles, whipped cream, and caramel.
Just slightly naughty
“Eat dough, because your mama told you no!” That’s the tagline for the Jane Dough Mobile Tuk Tuk, Aramark’s cookie dough-on-an-electric-cart concept, which debuted last NFL season at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland, OH, as a pilot program of a brand created by Aramark in response to the cookie dough trend.
Jane Dough from the mobile electric Tuk Tuk is now available at two more venues, Rogers Centre in Toronto and Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. And the Jane Dough concept without the electric cart is available at nearly all of Aramark’s Major League accounts and can also be executed as a product-only menu offering within concession stands and suites. Guests choose the flavor of dough, with toppings or a sundae.
Some industry watchers have posited that the raw cookie dough craze is akin to eating other “risky but not really” foods like steak tartare or sushi. The age-old warning to steer clear of raw cookie dough stems from the fear of raw ingredients, drummed into consumers by the Food and Drug Administration. There are different ways to make cookie dough safe to eat, including eliminated eggs altogether, but that didn’t appeal to Tomlan when developing DŌ’s dough.
“It was always important to me that my product be real bona fide cookie dough, both edible and bake-able,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be something that was sort of like cookie dough, so I made it a mission to find safe-to-eat raw ingredients.”
A pasteurized egg product and heat-treated flour makes the dough safe to eat and — if customers desire — they can bake it at home. And baked cookies are on offer at the store as well, showcased in multi-tier display that also includes brookies (brownie plus cookie) and cookie bombs (cookie dough/cupcake hybrid).
Nostalgia in Chicago’s Water Tower Place
A cookie dough break from shopping on Chicago’s most famous strip of stores, Scooped has been busy since setting up shop seven months ago, scooping raw cookie dough with cold milk on tap. The small kiosk in the Magnificent Mile-facing entrance to Water Tower Place has been met with enthusiasm, and a second location in San Antonio opened last month. Franchises may be in the future, according to Scooped owner Matt Weber.
The Chicago location’s sales are usually between $90,000 and $100,000 per month, according to Weber and profit is usually around 20 percent.
“The reception there has been incredible,” Weber said, citing the Chicago store’s highly interactive experience. “It’s a constantly busy scene….People love to stand and watch as we make the cookie dough right there. We’re even known to hand samples out straight from the mixing bowl.”
That sense of mischief and wholesome family fun is what led Weber to embark on his cookie dough business. Weber describes his own family tradition of making a batch of cookie dough for game nights and eating it out of a communal bowl. In that setting, raw dough was never a problem, but obviously for public consumption, he had to make adjustments.
Like Tomlan of DŌ, Weber wanted Scooped to feature real-deal cookie dough, also using pasteurized eggs and heat-treated flour. He has some issues with anything different.
“If you remove eggs and use substitutes like applesauce or flax seed, it not only changes the texture — making it look and feel like Play-Doh — and the flavor, but it’s not even real cookie dough anymore,” he said.
Beyond chocolate chip: adventures in dough flavors
“Think of it like you do an ice cream shop,” Weber said of the Scooped setup and functionality.
Customers walk up and see a menu listing current flavors (Scooped began with 15 dough flavors/recipes and now has more than 30), consult with a staffer behind the counter, try samples, and choose a bowl or waffle cone.
Scooped has a standard set of about a dozen flavors each day (chocolate chip and cake batter are always there), with a featured flavor, such as seasonal Pumpkin Ginger and Peppermint Chocolate, coming soon.
“We’ve been able to take a childhood memory and turn it into an incredible business opportunity.”
What is cookie butter?
Cousin to cookie dough, cookie butter is a bit of a different animal. “There is a huge difference between cookie butter and cookie dough,” said Diane Tchen, who with her husband Stephen, launched the Kream Kong ice cream truck in Los Angeles in January.
Kream Kong has experimented with cookie butter in ice cream at such hot food scene events as the OC Night Market. “Cookie butter is best described as graham cracker taste in peanut butter form and cookie dough is…well, you know cookie dough.”
Flavoring cookie dough with matcha, ube (vivid purple yam) works well, but cookie butter as a flavor stands alone at Kream Kong. Like vanilla (an ice cream flavor that’s been most popular on the truck, in spite of more adventurous choices), cookie butter proves that sometimes the simple things can be best.
“I think we’ll just keep it as is because everybody seems to love it already,” Tchen said.
Contact Tara Fitzpatrick at [email protected]
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