How to Start a Doughnut Shop

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There’s nothing more delicious than biting into a warm, freshly baked donut. If you enjoy putting your baking talents to use to create tasty donuts, pastries, and other baked goods, then starting a donut shop could allow you to capitalize on your baking talents. One of the great advantages of the donut shop industry is that there’s plenty of room for creativity and innovation. If you have a new idea to dress up this traditional treat, you might be able to create a unique and highly successful business and make some dough.

Business Overview

Donut shops often sell a variety of donuts, pastries, and sweets. They also sell coffees, teas, and other beverages. These shops offer the convenience of food prepared quickly, and customers may opt to get their food to go or to enjoy the food in the sit-down portion of the shop. A donut shop may also have a drive-thru window for extra convenience.

In addition to the appeal of a convenient snack or meal, some donut shops also make their own donuts and baked goods. It’s also possible for entrepreneurs to purchase a franchise location of an existing chain, retailing the brand’s already well-known products.

Industry Summary

According to IBIS World, from 2014 to 2019, the donut store industry experienced an annualized 3.1% growth. IBIS World predicted that the industry would grow by 1.4% in 2019 alone. In 2019, the industry brought in $8 billion in revenue, and 13,058 businesses employed a total of 113,848 employees.

The industry’s growth is due to increased consumer confidence and spending. As per capita disposable income has increased, consumers have become more willing to indulge in luxuries, like doughnuts and gourmet coffee. These trends are expected to continue to drive industry growth through 2024, and it’s likely that we’ll also see an expansion of specialty donut shops during that time.

Industry Trends

According to Baking Business, creativity is a major trend that is currently shaping the donut shop industry. Bakers are increasingly exercising their creativity in coming up with unique and surprising donut flavors and combinations, and consumers are open to trying something new. While there’s always a place for traditional yeast donuts and flavors like glazed and chocolate-covered donuts, more shops are selling these treats with unique toppings like bacon, cereal, and fruit.

Gourmet donuts, made with premium ingredients and unique flavor combinations, are increasingly popular. Some stores are even offering customizable donuts and walk-in special requests made to order.

While there are plenty of people who want to indulge in a donut, many people are looking for healthier options. Portion control mini donuts and donut holes are popular, as are donuts that are made with natural sweeteners. In the fitness community, protein donuts are increasingly used as a replacement for protein bars. Vegan, keto, and gluten-free donuts and muffins are also popular.

Who is the target market for your donut business?

A donut business’s target market tends to be adults and families who enjoy donuts, though the specific target market can also vary according to a business’s specialty. It’s important to realize that, in many cases, coffee is what actually draws customers to these stores. According to Food Business News, 68% of purchases made at donut stores include coffee, while only 30% of purchases include a donut. While donuts are certainly an important part of the business, donut shops can’t underestimate the importance of marketing their coffee drinks, too.

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a donut shop

While a donut shop owner doesn’t need a business degree, certain skills and experiences can increase the business’s chances of success.

Food preparation and handling experience. A business owner who has previous food preparation and handling experience will be better prepared to implement safe food handling procedures. Business owners may also be required to earn a food safety certification through an accredited program as approved by their state’s regulations.

Experience working in a café. Business owners who have previously worked in fast-paced cafes will have multiple skills that are an advantage in owning a donut shop. Knowledge of various coffee drinks and preparing them can help a store owner plan their menu and ensure their store offers popular quality beverages.

Customer service skills. Engaging with the public is a big part of owning a donut shop. A business owner with customer service skills and experience can teach those skills to all employees to build strong relationships with customers.

Management experience. Most donut shops require multiple employees, so experience in hiring, training, and managing employees is helpful.

Creativity. There’s plenty of competition in the donut shop industry. A shop owner who is creative in their recipes, their store’s theme, and their marketing can help their store to stand out from others.

Multitasking skills. A donut store owner will benefit from multitasking skills that continuously balance multiple priorities and tasks throughout the day.

Costs to Start a Donut Shop

It’s possible to start a small donut shop for about $15,000, while larger shops will carry closer to $50,000 or $75,000 in startup costs.

Common startup costs for a donut shop include:

  • Baking and display equipment such as refrigerators, ovens, fryers, mixers, proofer, cooling racks, donut cutters, etc.
  • Drink and coffee equipment
  • Ingredients and inventory
  • Furniture
  • Building renovations
  • Signage

Steps to Starting a Donut Shop

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a donut shop business plan.  Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2: Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

Step 3: Name the Business

Finding the perfect name for a business can be challenging. Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, it also has to be available to use.

Related: Tips and ideas for naming a donut shop

Step 4: Select your Location

Rental costs will depend on the size of the space, its location, and even the amenities available at the space, like an available kitchen. It’s ideal to find a space that’s been previously used for similar purposes since it will require minimal renovation. The availability of a drive-up window can also be an advantage but may add to rent costs.

A donut shop doesn’t require a lot of space, with some operating in less than under 1000 square feet.

The location of the space is another important consideration. A space in a prime retail location may have a higher rent cost, but it can bring walk-in traffic and awareness of the business that pays off, too.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

A donut shop will need to obtain certain business licenses and permits in order to open. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. The business owner or a shop manager will also need to pass a food safety certification test as required by the state and be subject to random health inspections.

Some of the common local, state, and federal registrations most donut shops need include a sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, and Occupancy Permit.

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Step 6: Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a donut shop is another.  Funding to start a donut shop business can be difficult.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to personally invest 15-25% towards the total start-up costs.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the business.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

Donut shops need to perform a variety of marketing techniques, both when the business launches and to continue to drive business to the shop. Marketing activities include social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, online marketing, print advertising, and more. Loyalty cards and programs can also help to encourage customer loyalty at a relatively low cost. A business’ marketing budget will vary depending on the amount and type of marking activity performed.

Be mindful of reviews from sites like Yelp, Google, etc

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Get Insurance

A donut shop needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

  • General liability insurance protects the business if customers are ever injured while on the property, such as by a slip or a fall. This type of insurance can help to cover expenses like legal fees and medical bills.
  • Commercial property insurance can cover the expenses associated with damaged or destroyed inventory or equipment that could be lost in an event like a fire.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance helps cover expenses like lost wages and medical bills if an employee is ever hurt while working.

Insurance policy cost is affected by many factors including the business’ location, the value of its equipment and inventory, and the number of employees on staff. To get the most accurate idea of what insurance will cost, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, be sure to look at details like coverage limits, exclusions, and deductibles, rather than only looking at how the premiums compare.

Related: Types of insurance your business may need

Step 10: Hiring Employees

Even a small donut shop will likely require an employee or two, and as that business grows, multiple staff will be needed. According to Indeed, donut makers earn an average of $11.52 per hour. Indeed also reports that donut store clerks earn an average of $9.53 per hour.

In addition to budgeting for employee salaries, a business will also need to budget for other expenses that come with hiring staff. A business may need to cover expenses like paid time off, health insurance contributions, and worker’s compensation insurance.

Related: Hiring your first employee

How much can you potentially make owning a donut shop?

A donut shop’s profits will depend on many factors, including the business model, the location, and how many years the shop has been in business. According to, the average donut shop owner’s salary is $41,005. Salaries most typically range from $36,152 to $47,812. The top 90th percentile of donut shop owners earn a salary of $54,009.

There are a number of ways that you can maximize your shop’s earnings. When creating a business plan, look for a location with minimal competition, or create a business model that offers something that your competitors don’t. Careful market research can also increase the chances of your business being a success.

Things to consider before starting a donut shop

Keep in mind that the donut industry is highly competitive, and with well-established brands like Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks, new shops need to find a way to do things differently. It’s important to perform thorough market research to ensure that your shop will fulfill an unmet need in the community and that the public will be interested in the products that you plan to offer.

Coffee sales are an easy way to increase sales and profits for a donut shop.  Make sure a good quality coffee is being used as a good coffee will pull in coffee drinkers who wouldn’t have stopped for donuts.

If you’d like to start a donut business but aren’t yet ready for a brick and mortar location, consider starting a business with a food truck or trailer. These types of mobile facilities can allow you to travel directly to your target audience, and they don’t carry the same scheduling requirements that running a storefront requires.


American Bakers Association
American Culinary Federation
American Institute of Baking
Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals
Cookie & Snack Bakers Association
Independent Bakers Association
Retail Bakers of America

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