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Success Too Sweet?

The road to becoming the next Sprinkles can get sticky, as the entrepreneurs who just launched a wildly trendy doughnut shop have learned.

Fonuts opened Aug. 24 at Third Street and Crescent Heights Boulevard after months of hype from local food bloggers as well as chirpy updates from the shop’s Facebook page and Twitter feeds. So many people showed up during the first week of business that partners Waylynn Lucas and Nancy Truman had to take a breather and close for two days last week.

“We sold out of everything, not only ingredients but bags and boxes as well,” said Truman, who estimated nearly 6,000 doughnuts were sold in five days. “Great problem to have, I guess.”

The “healthy” doughnut shop employs a combination of steaming and convection heat to create a product with comparable taste and mouth feel of a traditional fried doughnut. The menu includes nontraditional flavors such as banana chocolate, rum and chorizo cheddar, as well as wheat/gluten-free and vegan versions. All the doughnuts have lower-than-normal amounts of sugar and fat.

Part of the hype centered on Lucas, who built her pastry chef reputation at SLS Hotel’s the Bazaar by Jose Andres and Walt Disney Concert Hall’s Patina restaurants. But it was longtime friend Truman, a voice actress who is gluten intolerant, who came up with the healthy gourmet pastry concept.

“After our first week, we realized that we had to hire more bakers, have them here around the clock and develop a more structured inventory/

ordering system,” said Lucas, who is attempting her second restaurant venture with Fonuts.

Industry analyst Darren Tristano said Fonuts is trying to follow the tradition of Sprinkles gourmet cupcakes and Pinkberry frozen yogurt – both popular local chains that have gone national. But healthy doughnuts is a concept that may not do as well elsewhere as in body-conscious Los Angeles.

“The big challenge for them is to offer a snack that also satisfies those cravings for something not so healthy,” said Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic Inc. in Chicago.

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