Betsy Hamm took over as CEO of the 106-unit Duck Donuts in April 2021, and she anticipates 2022 being one of a return to basics — and continued growth — for the brand.
Private-equity firm NewSpring Capital in early 2021 bought a majority stake in the Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based doughnut concept. Hamm was promoted from chief operating officer to CEO with the investment.
“The last two years, as everybody knows, have been absolutely crazy for everyone — especially in the food industry — and when you look back at all the innovation and amazing ideas that have occurred over the last few years, it's very exciting and very overwhelming,” Hamm said.
Hamm said simplicity means different things to different people, but she defines it as delivering “exceptional product with superior customer service.”
Hamm joined Duck Donuts in 2016 in marketing after more than 14 years at Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, and took over as chief operating officer in November 2017.
The brand was founded by Russ DiGilio when he opened the first Duck Donuts locations in 2007 in the North Carolina beach resort towns of Duck and Kitty Hawk. The intent was to create an oasis for vacationers. The company began franchising in 2013. The company now has locations in 22 states and two international units in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Growth remains one of the CEO’s biggest challenges, said Hamm, who set out a “Vivid Vision” in 2021 that encompasses company culture, employees, media, brand, systems and financials.
“We're really focused on accelerating growth,” Hamm said. “We hit that hundred-shop mark in 2021, which was exciting, and we plan on opening 40 shops [in 2022].”
Duck Donuts’ corporate team communicates its growth goals to its franchise base, but Hamm added that they don’t skip over the most important part.
“We need to be focused on our current franchisees and how we make them more successful,” she said. “How are we removing barriers? How are we making them more profitable? And how are we helping them to give them the tools to increase their [average unit volumes]?”
A bright spot is the revelation during the pandemic that doughnut sales held up.
“We found out that doughnuts are pandemic proof,” Hamm said. “Everybody was still enjoying doughnuts, and we had the opportunity to sprinkle happiness when things were really rough.”
With business that was already predominantly take-out, Duck Donuts honed its online ordering.
“We have made a lot of changes to our digital experience, making that a cleaner, more customer-friendly experience, which is something that will continue,” Hamm said. “And then we are focused on convenience, so when you come into Duck Donuts, you get to watch the entire experience of your doughnuts being made.”
However, to save time, Duck Donuts is looking for ways to make the online ordering experience easy and satisfying. The brand will also continue to offer seasonal doughnut flavors that are prepared.
“I feel like we're in a really good place,” Hamm said. “Now that everything has really come into its own [and] all the puzzle pieces have been fit together, I'm excited to see all that hard work pay off.”
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