POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 1, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 1:53 a.m. HST, Jun 1, 2011
Contrary to logic, it rarely pays to lead in business. Sure, it's great to be acknowledged as an original, but consumers generally don't like change and it could take a few years for them to catch up to your innovative ideas.
According to Jessie Salvador, general manager of Regal Bakery, who did his research prior to introducing flavored cake doughnuts, Dunkin' Donuts tried twice in the early '80s and '00s to do the same. Soon after those failed to take off, DD ceased operations in Hawaii.
"Their timing wasn't right," he said. "They were ahead of their time."
What changed in the interim was the rise of the cupcake, in all its cakey flavor and frosting permutations, but after about a good five- or six-year run, Salvador sees people suffering from cupcake fatigue and ready to move on. He feels the time is right for a cake doughnut decorated like a cupcake.
"Guys tell me cupcakes are hard to eat," he said. You either have to eat from the bottom or side, or cut it in half to avoid getting a dollop of frosting up the nostrils.
Plus, they tend to be relatively pricey, at $2.50 to $3.50 each, vs. one of Regal Bakery's 90-cent doughnuts.
REGAL BAKERY>>Location: 3040 Ualena St., 834-4423
>>Hours: 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. weekdays
>>Cost: Doughnuts 90 cents each
"We see from our diner operation how much people are able to pay. They'd rather buy a manapua for $1.50 than a plate lunch for $4, so we keep that in mind."
All that said, five years ago, Salvador said he didn't know he would ever be in the retail bakery business. Regal Foods simply started its bakery geared toward school fundraising campaigns, offering cinnamon bread, banana bread and pound cake.
Set up in an industrial area near the airport, Salvador started thinking it would be a good idea to expand service to the area demographic with a quick stop for doughnuts and coffee. He anticipated it would take a good six months to catch on, but after opening a month-and-a-half ago, he said he feels overwhelmed by how quickly people have warmed to doughnuts.
Although the bakery was only going to be open weekdays, Saturday hours will begin June 18 to accommodate customers; Salvador has weddings lined up with doughnuts subbing for the traditional cake; and people are constantly requesting favorite flavors.
For now, Regal Bakery has all the basics covered, with flavors a child would understand. Each is color-coded with candy sprinkles so a strawberry-flavored doughnut (the flavor is in the frosting) will have red sprinkles, blueberry will have blue sprinkles, chocolate will have brown sprinkles, etc. There are some exceptions, like the coconut, with shaved coconut on top, and vanilla has multicolored sprinkles. Double chocolate has a chocolate cake base and chocolate glaze on top.
Traditionalists will be happy to know Regal hasn't abandoned the lighter, fluffier glazed yeast doughnut. A variation of this is a glazed doughnut with guava chiffon and macadamia nut frosting, one of my favorites, along with a mint-white chocolate cake doughnut.
But for those who crave novelty, every month will have its own special creation. In May it was Red Velvet Cake; this month, it's Rocky Road.
Salvador, who's solely responsible for developing new flavors, said he's in no danger of running out of ideas. For the Fourth of July, he's prepared with cranberry glaze over a blueberry doughnut and red, white and blue sprinkles. He's already thinking ahead to the holidays with pumpkin-spice flavors for October or November, and peppermint with a red and green color scheme for Christmas.
While the doughnuts tend to be girly in their colorful appearance, Salvador said many of their customers are men who buy three at a time for themselves. Their only complaint is they have to make multiple trips to sample all the 19 flavors available, and it may get tougher to sample the selections over time as Salvador sets himself to one day topping Baskin-Robbins' signature 31 flavors.
"I could get as crazy as that, but for now, we're just doing the basics."
Friday is National Donut Day, a good time to head over to the bakery, which is celebrating by giving each customer one free doughnut of his or her choice.
The day grew out of the Great Depression — the Chicago Salvation Army started the day to raise funds for the needy, and to honor the Salvation Army "Lassies" of World War I who provided soldiers with donuts, writing supplies and clothes-mending services. The day is now celebrated the first Friday in June.
Salvador has also found that, contrary to a stereotype born in the days when there were few grab-and-run meal options, there's no meaningful connection between police officers and doughnuts.
"It's not true," he said. "We had a police officer citing somebody outside, so I invited him in to have a doughnut on the house and he looked at me with a stink eye and didn't come in."
Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews appear on Wednesdays. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.