Donut King and PlayStation partnership marks streak of innovation across doughnut chain

By Sarah Stowe | 09 May 2022 View comments

A Donut King and PlayStation partnership has had an overwhelming response since its mid-April rollout. Both franchisees and consumers have embraced the donut range inspired by iconic PlayStation shapes, the Retail Food Group-owned brand reports.

The partnership is in response to insights that show Donut King customers are avid users of video-on-demand services, gaming and aggregators. It features a 50,000 prizes giveaway, including five PlayStation5 consoles and other prizes including wireless controllers, PlayStation subscriptions, new PlayStation5 games and thousands of hot cinnamon donuts – Donut King’s signature flavour.

Donut King general manager and newly-appointed head of corporate store operations, Tom Elliott, predicts the partnership will be the first of many. “We will look for opportunities and collaborations with global powerhouses,” he tells Inside Franchise Business Executive.

Customer-led initiatives

“For me the key to any business longevity is the ability to pivot and innovate to meet consumer demands. We invest in mystery shop programs, consumer data and research what consumers are looking for and barriers to purchase.”

Sony Interactive Entertainment Australia director of marketing Patrick Lagana said the PlayStation shapes are the DNA of the brand.

“They represent not only our identity, but collectively they are a powerful, universal symbol to generations of players, of the joy and escapism that play provides. Through this partnership with Donut King, we are delighted to bring our shapes to life and give Australians a little taste of the PlayStation universe,” he said.

Competitive market

Elliott says competition in the doughnut market has never been more fierce.

“The rise of independents has raised the bar. At times they can afford to be more agile than a business with 200+ outlets.

“We’ve been a mainstay for over 20 years, it’s generational. Aussies have grown up with the brand, Donut King is embedded in the community.”

Elliott points to the brand’s challenge of meeting consumer demand, which today includes exotic toppings and products catering to food intolerances, with the ability to make product readily accessible to a mainstream market.

“Consumer expectations evolve, both in terms of channels and products. With products, we’ve seen a premiumisation trend, it’s a mega trend, and health has dominated it and altered it dramatically over the past three to five years,” Elliott says.

“When we look at that we have to consider those elements, the relevance and accessibility.”

To that end he believes the brand now is driving “doughnut cabinet innovation”, something that wasn’t the case 18 months ago.

Brand innovation

“Getting the cabinet right is about having the right range. We have launched a glazed and indulgence range, a kids range, and four, six and 12 packs.”

Now Donut King is looking to introduce a health range in 2022.

Beyond the product, accessibility is key, and the brand has innovated in this area too.

“The last piece of the puzzle, which has been accelerated through the pandemic, is a big focus on digital platforms and non-digital store formats.”

At the recent Melbourne franchising expo Donut King showcased its mobile model, which was introduced last year.

“We are spending time on dialling up digital and non-store formats, and geographic extension. We want to meet our ambition of being able to provide products to all consumers in Australia, so we have to think outside the box.”

Recruiting franchisees

“In our existing portfolio there is a wealth of experience and it is not uncommon for franchisees to have up to 20 years with the brand,” says Elliott.

About one third of the network comprises multi-units and 90 per cent of greenfield stores are snapped up by existing franchisees. 

“We have a franchisee-first mindset,” says Elliott. 

He believes the easy to operate model is an advantage to the brand and the goal is to ensure it is the number one doughnut destination for Australians.

Recently the operations  model shifted, transitioning to one central distributor for a more seamless supply chain.

“Covid has thrown a whole heap of challenges our way, we’re not alone. The majority of sites are in shopping centres but the brand’s been extremely recession proof. There is confidence in the brand, in landlord relationships, landlords received the new formats.  

“Now we are kicking off a targeted sales program, with more activity, info nights, more expos – we know we’ve got an attractive offer for franchise buyers. It’s getting the message out there en masse.”