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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 8 months ago

In the Round

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Maintaining consistency among far-flung locations is the holy grail of the franchise industry. One enterprising couple — think secret shoppers — has pursued the challenge with vigor.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributing Writer

The doughnut craze is still going strong.

That's good news for Cecilia and Shawn Wampole, owners of the Donut Experiment. What started out as a single shop on Anna Maria Island has grown into a thriving franchise, with three additional Florida locations — Siesta Key, Clearwater Beach and Cocoa Beach — plus shops in Greenville, S.C., and Provincetown, Mass.

In 2018, new franchise locations will open in Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and Florida. And there's potential for more. “We still have a lot of solid leads, so we'll probably announce a few more locations in different states in 2018,” says Cecilia Wampole.

Despite the slightly higher-than-expected interest the couple has seen from potential franchise owners, they're sticking with their original slow-and-steady approach to franchising and aren't pursuing aggressive growth. “We're definitely OK with growing slowly and growing organically,” says Wampole. “As you grow, you have to be able to manage it and not get consumed by it.”

The biggest franchising challenge they've experienced so far is maintaining consistency across the different locations of the create-your-own-doughnut shops. “It's making sure everyone is doing the same thing and that the customer has the same experience whether they go to Greenville or Clearwater,” says Wampole.

To do that, the Wampoles monitor everything closely and have added an employee to help them oversee the franchise locations. Unannounced inspections and mystery shoppers help ensure each shop is up to snuff. “I'm always conveying to the franchises that we're not working against them but are working with them,” says Wampole. “At the end of the day, we all have to be the same in order for the brand to grow.”

The Wampoles still own the Anna Maria location, which continues to be busy year-round. But because the Donut Experiment's franchising plan has taken off so well, they've had to move back to their native Pennsylvania to be close to family, who help with the couple's kids when they travel for work.

They don't have any plans to open another location themselves. But Cecilia Wampole sees the potential for a Donut Experiment shop in the Philadelphia area where they now live, especially since there are lots of colleges nearby. “You never know,” she says. “If an opportunity should present itself, of course we would look into it.”

A former customer now serves as manager of their Anna Maria location. “She has the same ideas of customer service as Shawn and I do, which is why the shop runs seamlessly,” says Wampole. “It's like we never left.”

Iced lattes have been added to the Donut Experiment's menus. But otherwise, there haven't been any major changes to the kinds of doughnuts and toppings the shops offer, and there's no interest in expanding to any other food items. Like the chase for consistency among stores, the Wampoles follow another business axiom, in having a laser focus. “We're going to stick with what works,” says Wampole. “It's always been our mantra to do one thing and do it well.”

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