Doughnuts The Next Big Thing?
By Melissa Pang – Jan 21, 2007
The Sunday Times
A LONG line forms every day at Donut Factory in the basement of Raffles City.
Customers wait for up to two hours for the shop’s freshly made doughnuts – deep-fried yeast pastries glazed with chocolate, filled with kaya or topped with fruit.Call it pent-up doughnut demand – the shop was swamped shortly after it opened in the middle of last monthGunter Rahim, 44, a businessman of German-Pakistani descent, has had to double production and more than triple the size of his staff.
He won’t give sales figures but says: ‘It’s been overwhelming, and more than we’ve expected.’
Customers can also place advance orders – at least a week in advance.
‘There’s a limit to the number of doughnuts we can produce each day without compromising quality,’ he says.
This attention to perfection is perhaps why his doughnuts are so popular.
The pastries are mixed and cut by hand, then fried in a machine. After that, they are decorated by hand. The result? Light, fluffy doughnuts which are a contrast to the often heavy ones found in Singapore bakeries.
Rahim says they are less sweet than the famous Krispy Kreme doughnuts from the United States, which some Singaporeans cart home in boxes from their trips abroad.
One regular customer, secretary Angeline Ng, 52, says of Donut Factory’s wares: ‘They are very soft and melt in your mouth, especially when they’re hot.’
She has patronised the store more than 10 times, waiting in line about 90 minutes each time.
It was the dearth of good doughnuts here that prompted Rahim to start his business.
He says: ‘I really couldn’t figure out why. The doughnuts sold were mostly from local bakeries, and those I found to be too chewy, too dense and very oily.’ With no baking experience, he looked up recipe books. He also tasted doughnuts in Europe, the US and in countries like Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
After coming up with a winning recipe, he customised flavours for the Singapore palate. So alongside bestsellers like Double Chocolate, Glazed and Strawberry White Chocolate, he has Wasabi Cheese and Kaya White Chocolate.There are signs that his doughnuts might trigger yet another Singapore food fad, which has seen people here going gaga over bubble tea, Portuguese egg tarts, buttery coffee-glazed buns and apple strudel.
Just last week, another doughnut shop, Vinco – The Doughnut Parlour, opened at VivoCity mall.
Run by two Indonesians and a Singaporean, the shop also offers doughnuts with flavours like Smiling Nuts (peanut butter) and Pine-n-pur (pineapple topping) that are designed to appeal to local taste buds.
Prices are comparable, with Donut Factory charging slightly less. Its pastries cost $11 for a dozen in assorted flavours, while Vinco charges $11 to $13, depending on whether the pastries are glazed.
It sells about 700 doughnuts on weekdays and 2,000 on weekends.
Kelvin Chan, 30, a research manager who monitors the food and beverage industry for Euromonitor International, a market intelligence company, says there is talk that doughnut chain Mister Donut may set up shop here.
It started in the US but now operates mainly in Japan, where it has over 1,000 stores. There are also outlets in Taiwan and the Philippines.
Rahim, too, has received offers to franchise his operations, although he has no plans to do so for now.
Naturally, doughnut lovers here have cause for cheer.
Engineer Hansel Reyes, 38, was queuing at Donut Factory, and planned to buy two dozen for his seven-year-old twin daughters.
He says: ‘Whenever I make trips to the US, I have to buy Krispy Kremes for my kids because they love it. If I can get quality doughnuts here, I won’t have to carry heavy boxes on those 17-hour flights anymore.’
B1-61, Raffles City Tel: 6337-6268
Open: 12.30 to 9pm daily
Vinco – The Doughnut Parlour
02-125, VivoCity Tel: 6376-8238
Open: 10.30am to 9pm (Mon to Thu) and 10.30am to 10pm (Fri to Sun)