In 2021, Mechanicsburg, Penn.-based Duck Donuts went through a transitionary phase: The company was bought by private equity firm NewSpring, founder Russ DiGilio retired, and former COO Betsy Hamm was named CEO of the company. These changes in leadership and ownership brought the doughnut chain into a new era of rapid growth. In 2022 alone, Duck Donuts is opening 40 locations, which is a record development pace for the brand.
But how do you scale an emerging brand quickly and bring it to the next level without encountering bumps in the road? While some growing pains are inevitable, for Hamm, the secret has always been a continued focus on people, no matter how big Duck Donuts gets.
“Opening up more locations might honestly be the easiest part [of growth],” Hamm told Nation’s Restaurant News. “But the other question is, ‘How do you make your current franchisees successful?’”
As a smaller brand transitions to the next level, it’s so crucial, Hamm said, to not leave your original franchising family in the dust. This is especially true at Dunk Donuts, where franchisees come up with many of their business and menu strategies.
“Our franchisees are critical to how the brand grows and evolves,” Hamm said. “They're the ones in the shops every day dealing with customers and delivering happiness. … Our franchise partners influence everything from new product innovation to training programs.”
As Hamm looks back at the first 100 Duck Donuts store openings, she notes that dependability is the key to successful growth. New owners NewSpring did not overhaul the Duck Donuts brand and bring in sweeping changes.
“Now that we have over 100 locations, making sure we deliver a consistent experience is key, no matter what city or country we’re in,” Hamm said. “And I think that will only become more important as we grow and scale.”
Betsy Hamm will be speaking at CREATE: The Future of Foodservice in Denver, taking place Sept. 19-21.
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