The Doughnut War

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Donut Struggle

The year: 1937. The man: Vernon Rudolph. The place: Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The pastry: doughnuts. But, not just any doughnuts, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

The History

While the true origin of the doughnut is in doubt, the great era of the modern American doughnut began in 1937. On July 13 of that year, Krispy Kreme founder Vernon Rudolph opened the first Krispy Kreme store. He began by selling the doughnuts to local grocery stores, but before long people were stopping by his store asking to buy hot doughnuts direct. He cut a hole in the wall so that he could get the doughnuts to his customers directly. Demand grew, and before long an American classic was born. Now, nearly 70 years later, the original recipe for the succulent yeast-raised doughnuts has been enjoyed by people all over the world. But as most doughnut lovers know, not everything has been bliss in the doughnut world during the past 70 years. The Krispy Kreme campaign of peace and doughnut harmony, begun in 1937, was severely disrupted less than 13 years later.

Yes, in 1950, in the great city of Quincy*, Massachusetts, William Rosenberg opened the first Dunkin’ Donuts. Rosenberg’s success really began a few years earlier, in 1946, with the founding of Industrial Luncheon Services, a service company that delivered meals and “coffee break snacks.” He soon after opened his first coffee and doughnut shop, “The Open Kettle”. Dunkin’ Donuts followed and quickly became a success also. By 1968 Dunkin’ Donuts had begun a franchise, whose sole purpose was to serve delicious coffee and donuts to starving Massachusettsianerites.

Thus began the doughnut wars.

The Debate

In the beginning, a safe distance separated the Krispy Kremers from the Dunkin’ Donut-heads. As time passed, Dunkin’ Donuts flourished in the East, while Krispy Kreme found success in the South. Eventually, the buffer zone between the two camps shrank, and sometime in the early 90’s each one invaded the other’s home territory. As it stands today, the doughnut world is officially divided, and an epic struggle rages.

On the one side, Krispy Kremers proclaim the superiority of their super-sweet, super-melt-in-your-mouthy, original glazed. They say that nothing tops a fresh Krispy Kreme, HOT NOW off the assembly line. On the other side, Dunkin’ Donut-heads cite their doughnut’s – or donut’s – greater density and cakiness, and overall greater variety of food goods in each store. You might be able to eat one Krispy Kreme, they say, but you can eat a million Dunkin’ Donuts, and plus they have the best coffee.

The longstanding debate among doughnut lovers doesn’t appear to be coming to an end anytime soon. In fact, with the help of the internet, the debate may even be heating up. This can be seen on any number of popular social networking sites. One such site, Facebook, which caters to college and high school students, has groups “Dunkin’ Donuts is better than Krappy Kreme” and “Krispy Kreme is better than Dunkin Donuts”, both with growing memberships. Similar fan pages can be found on the massive social networking site MySpace. Yes, the war rages.

Scott and Doughnuts

My name is Scott, and I am a doughnut lover. Since my early youth I have felt an affinity for doughnuts. I remember times that I would grudgingly accompany my father to help friends of ours that were moving away, or new neighbors that were moving in, load and unload moving trucks. Frequently they would reward us for our help by presenting us with a recognizable pink box… a box of doughnuts. I found that biting into a fluffy chocolate raised would make me feel good inside, like it wasn’t so bad having to go and help people move. Other times I would go to work with my dad, a paint contractor, and when we would arrive at the paint store to get supplies we would be greeted with a box of doughnuts. Again, all my annoyance, stress, and frustration seemed to be absorbed by an oh-so-buttery old fashioned.

In high school I began selling doughnuts in the mornings to earn money. I would buy six dozen from the local doughnut store at a discount, and then go and sell them to my classmates and teachers at school for 50 cents each. Over time I became familiar with all the standard varieties of doughnuts, and I would cater to the specific likes of my clientele. As I sold the doughnuts each day, I found the smell of the deep-fried goodness intoxicating, and I would sample them. On any given day I would eat between 3 and 5 doughnuts, and I liked it.

Sometime around my junior year in high school Krispy Kreme arrived in California, and soon thereafter we met for the first time. I was little surprised when I tried my first original glazed. It was not what I was expecting. It was not like any doughnut that I had before tasted. It was the way that it melted in my mouth – the way that it disappeared so quickly – it was different. It wasn’t until the day after my first encounter that I realized: I liked the doughnut, I really liked it. I found myself craving the taste of the glaze, and I wanted more. On that day I became a Krispy Kremer.

The Misguided War

I quickly became aware of the doughnut war that was raging, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I was able to officially take a side. I had tried Dunkin’ a few times before moving to Illinois, but it was never really fresh, and I always wanted to give Dunkin’ a fair go. When the time finally came to settle the question for myself, I was a little surprised (once again) by what I found. After all the hype I had heard from friends and relatives, I found Dunkin’s doughnut to be, well, normal. It was good, yes, but almost all doughnuts are. There was nothing really special about it. In fact, every time I eat a doughnut from Dunkin’, it reminds me of the doughnuts I used to buy in high school. From my personal doughnuty-perspective, Dunkin’ Donuts are very similar to the doughnuts you would get at any mom-and-pop store, anywhere in the country. (Visit my doughnut comparison post for full details.)

Having sampled, tasted, savored, and considered each of the doughnuts that make up the great doughnut war, I found myself becoming increasingly perplexed. What is the nature of this war? Why are the Dunkin’ ideologues so fanatical about a doughnut that I find to be just average?

I decided to dig deeper, and I found that, in truth, the doughnut war has been terribly mismanaged. Yes, the doughnut war, begun with the best of intentions, has now lost its way, and it is time that everyone admitted it. I know that hearing these words might not sit well with some that are reading this, but I swear on the holey shape of the torus, that it is the truth. Allow me to elaborate with two important points.

First of all, there is a misunderstanding in the doughnut world. When two doughnut lovers get together to debate the merits of their respective doughnuts of choice, they should be very clear about what they are talking about. If we are going to talk about doughnuts, then let’s talk about doughnuts. If I claim that Krispy Kreme makes a better doughnut than Dunkin’, and you disagree, tell me why by citing the advantages of your favorite doughnut. Apple turnovers, breakfast sandwiches, bagels, and especially coffee have no place in the discussion. I don’t care if you prefer Dunkin’ Donuts because they carry the kind of apple juice that you love, I am talking about doughnuts. A discussion of doughnuts, and only doughnuts, should be the goal in every doughnut confrontation; all other foods should be put aside.

Second, economic and business related issues in a discussion about doughnuts are irrelevant. Yes, Krispy Kreme experienced a period of massive growth in the late 90’s that quickly deflated in the early 00’s. Yes, Dunkin’ Donuts has more stores, and is on better financial footing at the moment than Krispy Kreme. Yes, Krispy Kreme is not headquartered in Boston like Dunkin’. You know what? It is irrelevant. These things do not matter in the world of pure doughnut love. If the doughnut war is being fought over such unimportant issues, then it is clearly misguided.

The Krispy Kreme Invitation

Again, let me reiterate. I love doughnuts. Not just one kind either, but many kinds. I like the doughnuts from the Asian couple down the street. I like the donuts at Dunkin’. I like the doughnuts sold by the gypsies in Albania. But for me, when I want something just a little bit better than the average doughnut, I go to Krispy Kreme. A fresh, warm, glazed doughnut is a treat and a delight, and it gives me a deep-down fuzzy feeling that even a very good “normal” doughnut does not. If you are one of the many that are too blinded by the pink and orange, and the coffee, and the breakfast sandwiches, to recognize how special Krispy Kreme doughnuts are, then I invite you to open your mind and take a fresh look. There is a beautiful, shiny, glazed world right next door. You have been sent the invitation. We are waiting for you, and you will be welcomed whenever you decide to come over.

*Quincy is properly pronounced /kwinzi/. I was going to give the pronunciation in IPA, but since it is less accessible to most people, I won’t.

2 Responses to “The Doughnut War”

  1. James

    Krispy Kremes are very good. What about Winchells? Sometime I like those better. Nothing really beats a fresh Krispy Kreme, but an hour old Winchells is better than an hour old Krispy Kreme.

    I will need to conduct a battery of tests to confirm this though.