He’s the man responsible for lines down the block, a collaboration with some of Australia’s most creative bakers, sugar-coated rounds of dough replacing kale smoothies on Instagram feeds across the nation and the phrase “one Melon Degeneres please”. With over 170,000 followers on social media, Doughnut Time is the brainchild of Damian Griffiths, the owner of the popular food and beverage venues Mr Fitz, Kwan Brothers, Chester Street Bakery and the newly opened Les Bubbles.
In the space of a year, Doughnut Time has expanded from its origins as the charming neighbour of Griffiths-owned Brisbane hotspots Alfred & Constance and Limes Hotel to fourteen locations across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast.
We spoke to Damian about the wild success of Doughnut Time and how to transform a small idea into a nationally recognised brand.
Congratulations on the success of Doughnut Time in such a short amount of time. Just a few weeks ago, Doughnut Time turned one!
Yes, we’ve just had our first birthday – it all started last February. It’s been a pretty phenomenal growth – Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast – it’s been wildly successful beyond our wildest dreams.
What was the creative process involved in developing such an innovative and loveable brand?
It came from our original background – being in Brisbane, being involved in bars and restaurants, and opening the bakery. From Chester Street Bakery, we were putting out doughnuts every day and they were selling fast. Then when I went to Chicago and I saw this cool little doughnut shop and thought, “Oh wow, that’s precisely the kind of thing that we want to do”. And I think that sort of triggered the idea for me to start a hole-in-the-wall kind of doughnut store.
I guess taking the success of that; we then began getting interest from big national retailer Topshop, who asked us to do pop-up stores in Brisbane and Sydney and Melbourne. Suddenly we thought “we need a kitchen” so it caused this whole national roll-out and I guess it was the creation of the brand.
That’s a big part of all the food and beverages businesses I do, [creating] a brand that emulates what we’re about, what I’m about – handmade products, trying to do cool stuff and trying to be relevant today, a brand that’s really aware and current on social media, centered around people knowing that this is a young company trying to have a go and trying to do something.
So it’s become this project moving across to other cities in Australia – Perth particularly – and looking at opening our first overseas project, we’re planning to go to Tokyo. It’s just kind of crazy, it’s surreal. It just started out as this little hole-in-the-wall store, from very humble beginnings to this sort of doughnut project.
I guess I always travel, so I’m always looking for ideas, looking for trends in magazines and online. Being exposed in businesses like A&C (Alfred & Constance) and Limes in hospitality and fast food – it’s so fast-moving, it’s so dynamic. The customers change every day, it’s different customers coming in, so I suppose it’s these sort of trends that we’re looking at all the time.
I surround myself with a team of people I collaborate with on concepts, it’s not just one person, it’s about getting a team around you that can conceptualise and bring those ideas to market.
What was it that drew you towards the hospitality industry?
It’s kind of about the whole passion. So I think for one, you’ve got to have a passion to want to do things, to do projects, and I guess I found my passion in food and beverage. So that’s the path I’ve decided to follow. At the end of the day, deep down, hospitality is a hard industry, it’s probably the hardest in the sense that it’s seven days a week, it’s demanding, you’re dealing with so many variables. You’re subject to enormous criticism and enormous review from the wider public. You’ve got to be on your toes and you’ve got to be delivering.
I deal with that whole sort of issue of trying to grow a business and it’s very difficult to grow in hospitality. It’s often very personally driven so as you grow a business, it’s not easy to try and drive that structure and I’m still trying and learning about that. I’m learning every day. How do you go from one successful venue to several successful venues and having the same culture amongst your staff? And a lot of that just comes down to working with your key managers and making sure that they understand your culture and how you want them to treat guests and customers so then you get that common Damian Griffiths-style of hospitality.
Damian’s experience in multiple successful ventures showcases his ability to transform a business into a brand. His advice for budding entrepreneurs?
“Be prepared to have a go, and not be frightened to have a go. I think that’s encouraging people towards entrepreneurialism, to say ‘a small idea can become a big idea’. Put your heart and soul into thinking about what the brand is, what the customer is, what the customer is feeling. At some point take that leap of faith, just have a go. Sometimes I think you can make the mistake of overthinking things…But it’s really about taking that leap of faith; that’s what it’s about. You‘ve just got to go for it and say ‘I can do it’, and have that sort of approach. I think that is probably where people struggle the most: to have the courage to just do it.”
When asked if Damian is driven by the challenge of a national roll-out and an international opportunity, without missing a beat he replies “one hundred percent.”
Head to your local Doughnut Time store to taste-test some of these sensational handmade creations, from 9am until late. www.doughnuttime.com.au