Buzzworthy Brands is a weekly Restaurant Business feature highlighting innovative growth brands that operators should keep an eye on. A fresh Buzzworthy Brands profile will be published each Thursday.
The concept: Pinkbox Doughnuts
The details: A three-unit, “fun twist on a modern-day, old-fashioned” doughnut shop, based in Las Vegas. Stores are 1,000 to 2,000 square feet.
The backstory: Stephen Siegel, founder and CEO of Las Vegas real estate firm The Siegel Group, had been a Pinkbox customer since the first location opened in 2012. When Pinkbox’s founder decided to sell the brand late last year, Siegel and his partners jumped at the opportunity. Since taking over the concept early this year, Siegel has expanded the menu to 100 doughnut varieties (from chocolate frosted with sprinkles to the Mango Tango with mango filling, chamoy drizzle, Tajin dust and whipped cream), reimagined the brand to make it veritable Instagram bait, and is in the planning stages of opening a commissary to churn out thousands of doughnuts around the clock.
Why it’s worth watching: The new Pinkbox team is real estate-savvy, to be sure, and currently has 10 units in various stages of development, including one slated to open at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas next month. The chain is in the planning phases of creating a flagship store and commissary that would deliver fresh doughnuts to smaller storefront operations with no need for baking capabilities. That operation is expected to be running by the middle of next year, Siegel said. The chain recently rolled out a line of branded merchandise.
Photograph courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
HERE ARE FIVE GROWTH-MINDED QUESTIONS WITH STEPHEN SIEGEL, OWNER OF PINKBOX DOUGHNUTS
What changes have you made since taking over Pinkbox?
We’ve made a tremendous amount of changes. We expanded the line of doughnuts. We currently have 100 different doughnuts. There’s always around 60 that are out there and several different “bite” options. … What the store didn’t have was a store that matched the product. For our newest store, we branded the box and the bag and the cup and the napkins. We brought the Pinkie character to life as the mascot of the brand. We started to work a lot with social media. It’s very millennial-friendly. The entire store, it’s a fully Instagrammable store.
How do you come up with new doughnut varieties? And how do you balance new flavors without drastically increasing operational complexity?
I do a lot of that myself, at night, experimenting with different stuff. On a weekly basis, we’re in R&D, trying new stuff, testing it, letting customers try it. … That’s part of the growing experience, learning how we’re going to be able to manage that. We have pared it down. We’re using a lot of the same ingredients. We’re getting better at doing that. It’s an evolving process. … Vegan doughnuts are just at our new store. We have five different flavors. They’re doing well. The trick to me was to create a vegan doughnut that didn’t taste like it was vegan.
How are you broadening your customer base outside of the doughnut shops?
Besides selling retail, we do a lot of wholesale. We do businesses and schools. We also have a whole division doing custom orders, like letters, numbers, faces, characters, doughnut walls and doughnut towers. We’re really running three businesses.
What was your process for creating the eye-popping interior for the newest location?
We have our own designers in our corporate office. We do a lot of that in-house. We’ve been playing around with it a lot. It’s like the Willy Wonka of doughnuts, and that’s what I wanted. When you walk in, it’s just crazy fun. Everything is drips of frosting, rolling pins on the walls. … We just keep evolving and playing with fun stuff. I want the wow factor. I want someone to walk by us and go, “Wow, I want to walk in there.”
Have you considered adding other items to the menu to boost check averages?
We sell coffee, regular milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, orange juice and apple juice. We’re bringing in some cold coffee. It was important for me not to lose focus and have croissants and muffins. We want to focus on what we do well and that’s doughnuts. We want to limit our drinks to what we believe is right for our store. … Most people are getting half a dozen or a dozen. When you walk into our store, to see the variety we have, it’s really hard to walk out with one or two doughnuts.
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