The Untold Truth Of Duck Donuts

Sure, we all love Krispy Kreme's glazed goodness, and of course America runs on Dunkin'. But you may have noticed that another donut chain is rapidly expanding across the nation: Duck Donuts. Yes, all donuts are magical in their own way, but there's something in particular that sets Duck Donuts apart. It's not just their beachy decor, or the fact that all their donuts are cake donuts: Every donut sold at Duck Donuts is freshly made, and totally customizable, from coating to topping. Those personalized donuts have been so popular with customers that Duck Donuts opened its 100th shop in February of 2021 (as per Bake Magazine), and has expanded internationally too.

In April of 2021, Restaurant Business Online reported that Duck Donuts sold a majority stake in the company to a private equity firm, although the founder will still be on the board. The little donut shop that could has grown a ton, from a beach-side donut shack to an all-day destination for delicious treats. But what's the untold truth of Duck Donuts? There's more to this donut franchise than sprinkles and glaze.

How Duck Donuts began

If you've spent the summer in North Carolina's Outer Banks any time in the last 15 years, you definitely know the home of tasty goodness that is Duck Donuts. There are several shops out there now, but the whole delicious shebang started with a native Pennsylvanian, Russ DiGilio. 

As Restaurant Business Online explains, the idea to open a donut shop came about when Russ was vacationing with his family in the Outer Banks, and found that it was a donut desert. Looking to recreate the made-to-order-donut experience on the boardwalks of New Jersey he had enjoyed growing up, Digilio got to work and the first shop opened in the Outer Banks in 2007. A second followed soon after, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The name came about because that first store opened in Duck, North Carolina. 

Duck Donuts soon became a hit, and people coming to the Outer Banks on vacation started asking how they could get a Duck Donuts in their town. In 2013 Duck Donuts started franchising (as per Bake Magazine), and it currently has stores in 22 states across America.

Duck Donuts is all about custom donuts

It's true that every donut is a blessing, and that even a plain cake donut holds a special place in our hearts. But everything can be improved, or at least, have sprinkles added to it, and that's why the Duck Donuts experience gets people coming back for more: Every donut you order is made in front of you, to your specifications. Forget fro-yo and its customization options, forget the Chipotle "bowl vs. burrito" debate — Duck Donuts can make you a glazed donut with bacon, chocolate sprinkles, and raspberry drizzle if you want one. Is that good? Who knows! It's your decision.

According to their website, the Duck Donuts motto is "Warm, delicious, made to order," which means that every customer is getting a freshly-made donut with the coating, topping and drizzle of their choice. So when your 6 p.m. donut craving hits, you're getting donuts made six minutes ago, not at 6 a.m. 

Duck Donuts has also moved into the breakfast sandwich arena, with custom donut breakfast sandwiches (which we are here for). Potential combos include egg and cheese, sausage and egg, bacon, egg, and cheese, and pretty much any other combination of egg, cheese, sausage, and bacon that you care to stuff between two donut halves and devour like a person who will never feel sad again because the donut shop ran out of their favorite flavor. Still hungry? They also do donut milkshakes.

They have the best holiday donuts

Considering their business model is built around customization, the good people over at Duck Donuts really love to commit to a theme. Specifically, a holiday theme. We may have become accustomed to making all the decoration choices ourselves, but it's honestly no big deal to cede donut creative control to the Duck when the options are this good. Let's start with the year's best holiday (you know it's true), Halloween. The Duck Donuts website highlights a total of 12 terrifying flavors for the 2021 Halloween Spooky Box, including Boo-Berry and Werewolf.

As NBC notes, February means it's time for the Love Assortment, while March brings the return of the punny Lucky Duck assortment for St. Patrick's Day, according to CBS, an assortment which has, in the past, featured a topping inspired by a certain "lucky" and "charming" marshmallow cereal. Not to mention, in 2018 Long Island Weekly highlighted Duck Donuts' special Shark Week assortment, for those who celebrate.

As far as we know, Duck Donuts change their holiday flavors pretty regularly, so it's best to download the app if you want to keep up with the celebrations. 

There was a Duck Donuts-themed hotel room

This might be our favorite Duck Donuts fact: for a brief, beautiful time in the early summer of 2021, it was possible to book an Outer Banks vacation called "The Sweet Escape," and wake up each morning surrounded by donuts. 

According to Travel Agent Central, the collaboration between Duck Donuts and the Sanderling Resort looked like this: Follow the donut-printed wallpaper through to the bedroom, where a large bed with donut bedding and donut throw pillows invites you to slip into a sugar coma. When you awaken, donuts will be the first thing you see, because they're on the wall in framed pictures. The second thing you see will be the view: the Currituck Sound, just visible between rainbow sprinkle curtains. Fancy a dip in the ocean? Don't forget a box of donuts. Oh, and if you get hungry in the middle of the night, there are literally dozens of Duck Donuts scattered about the room, as well as Duck Donut coffee and donut decorating kits. But that's not even the best part. Those lucky guests were furnished with a donut concierge, to arrange a donut wake-up call. A donut concierge! It's the job we didn't know we needed.

This was a limited-time offering, but donut fans everywhere are praying it makes another appearance next summer. 

Duck Donuts is helping kids with cancer

When you visit Duck Donuts during September, you're not only choosing between glazed and powdered sugar, you can also choose to support a good cause by adding $1 a dollar to your order. As QSR Magazine reports, Duck Donuts runs a yearly campaign called Quack Gives Back, which supports a Nashville-based non-profit, Gabe's Chemo Duck Program, whose mission is to provide comfort for children going through cancer treatment. 

Duck Donuts started supporting Gabe's Chemo Duck Program in 2017, and the Quack Gives Back campaign had raised more than $210,000 by the start of their 2021 fundraiser. It's franchise-wide, so you can help kids dealing with cancer in every Duck Donuts store nation-wide. But the cutest part? Thanks to Gabe's Chemo Duck, every kid participating in the program gets their own Chemo Duck — an adorable stuffed duck in hospital scrubs, with a chemo port of his own. The idea is that the kids can share their experience with a friend going through similar things. Who's crying? Not us! Okay, it's us, but there's a lot of powdered sugar flying around in here. 

Mark National Donut Day on your calendar immediately

When you know, you know. We're talking about the fact that the first Friday of every June is National Donut Day, of course. Put a calendar alert on your phone right now, because that is the one day every year when you are guaranteed at least one free donut. In 2021, Duck Donuts' freebies included bare, cinnamon sugar, or powdered sugar donut options available in-store — no purchase required. We appreciate this selection, because everyone knows that cinnamon sugar is the best flavor of donut of all time. It's a classic, people. 

According to Yes Weekly, National Donut Day was started in 1938 by the Chicago Salvation Army. They wanted a day to mark the contributions of women who served donuts to soldiers during World War I. Considering women weren't allowed to fight, providing comfort to soldiers through the medium of hot donuts was one of the few ways they could support the war effort. So this day is all about honoring women, veterans, and donuts all at once, while eating a free donut of your very own. Make that a free cinnamon sugar donut. See you next year!

Duck Donuts has some unusual locations

While Duck Donuts may have started in North Carolina, they've expanded rapidly across the United States and even the world. But Duck Donuts isn't like other donut shops. What other shop has a viewing area where you can watch your donut being made, fried, and decorated according to your personal preference? Even Dunkin' can't give you that. And some of the Duck Donuts franchises aren't like other Duck Donut shops, either. 

There's the one serving donuts at intermission in the Altria Theater in Richmond, Virginia (per the Richmond Times Dispatch). There's the Duck Donuts in the Pegula ice arena near Penn State University. Or what about the shipping container in Long Beach, California, where surfers can eat cake donuts in between catching waves? It turns out that putting donuts in strange places is all part of Duck Donuts' growth strategy. According to Bake Magazine, Duck Donuts intends to open new franchises in stadiums, college campuses, airports, and food trucks, and that's just for starters. Where will they open next? Keep an eye on the duck. 

Duck Donuts honors National Rubber Ducky Day

If you ever had a bath as a child, or watched Sesame Street (both of which seem likely, let's be honest), chances are you're familiar with the humble rubber ducky. Never heard of National Rubber Ducky Day? Well, this holiday isn't a quack — according to QSR Magazine, it was started by Sesame Street star Ernie to celebrate the birthday of his dear friend Rubber Duckie on January 13. National Rubber Ducky Day is now celebrated on this day every year by children, puppets... and Duck Donuts. 

As big fans of rubber duckies, towns named after ducks, words that rhyme with duck, and the concept of ducks in general, Duck Donuts have sold an extensive range of rubber ducks in their shops for years. But on January 13, 2021, donut-lovers who use the Duck Donuts Rewards app were eligible for a buy one, get one free deal on a six-donut box, with a mystery rubber duck thrown in. We call that a rubber duck-ulous good time. Happy Birthday, Duckie!

You could win free Duck Donuts for a year

Just like the early bird that gets the worm, the early duck gets the donut — and when Duck Donuts opened in Paramus, New Jersey in March of 2021 some lucky duck proved that to be true. The Paramus location was the seventh to open in New Jersey, and Patch reported the new owners posted on Facebook that there would be two winners: Both the first, and the 100th person in line on opening day would receive one dozen Duck Donuts every month for a year, completely free of charge. The early-rising winner would also receive a gift basket with goodies like a t-shirt, Duck Donuts coffee mug, and travel mug. 

We did a bit of looking around, and it seems that Duck Donuts hosts this giveaway nearly every time they open a new franchise. According to the Post Register, they pulled the same delicious free-donuts-for-a-year trick to get us out of bed early in Ammon, Idaho in April of 2021. Just keep an eye on the news, and if there's a Duck Donuts opening near you, set an alarm and you could be the luckiest duck in line. Although if we've learned anything from this story, it's that being 100th in line is nearly as good as being first in line. On second thoughts, hit that snooze button, please.

Duck Donuts supports frontline workers

In May of 2020, COVID-19 was raging across the country, and we were all appreciating our essential businesses and frontline workers more than ever for keeping us safe. Well, Duck Donuts knows that happiness can be found in a warm donut, and so they rolled out the "Happiness for Hometown Heroes" campaign. It even had a great hashtag: customers could help Duck Donuts #SprinkleHappiness on frontline workers (per Bake Magazine). 

Donut lovers were invited to join Duck Donuts in meeting its goal of donating 25,000 donuts to frontline and essential workers across its communities. Customers had the opportunity to donate a donut or two (or six, or a dozen) to thank the people in their community, and Duck Donuts matched each donut donated. Donuts were delivered at the end of every week, which is probably the best way to mark time we've ever heard of. All in all, it sounds like a great sprinkling of happiness to us.

Duck Donuts are kosher in Georgia

Atlanta-based and keeping kosher? Then rejoice, because Duck Donuts Toco Hills is officially a kosher donut shop. According to QSR Magazine, the Toco Hills shop was certified kosher in January of 2021 by the Atlanta Kashruth Commission, which is the largest kosher supervision agency in the Southeastern United States. The certification means that the Toco Hills location has been certified kosher in all its ingredients, as well as in their production of menu items, and in the shop itself. 

According to Orthodox Union, Toco Hills is Atlanta's largest Jewish neighborhood, and franchise owner André Walters decided to go kosher after feedback from the local community. Considering that the Jewish community has a strong history of delicious donuts (we see you, Chanukah Sufganiyot!), it's not surprising that the Jewish residents of Toco Hills wanted to try other donuts that also align with Jewish religious food restrictions. 

There's no word yet on when or whether Duck Donuts will be catering to other food restrictions: providing gluten-free donuts for our celiac neighbors, or making lactose-free options so that your one friend who is definitely lactose-intolerant can stop rolling the dice, but if the demand is there, it seems Duck Donuts is willing to listen. After all, if you fry it, they will come. 

The first international Duck Donuts was in Chile

Duck Donuts has a great gimmick (custom donuts!) and a family-friendly, relaxed vibe — after all, the founders came up with the idea while on vacation. With that in mind, it makes total sense that the first international Duck Donuts would have opened in Santiago, in beautiful Chile, in 2019 (per the Duck Donuts website). Sadly, that location has now permanently closed, but if you still want to travel, practice your Spanish, and eat Duck Donuts, look no further than the Caribbean and book a flight to Puerto Rico, because Duck Donuts is open in Bayamón.

Although it seems bold to open a donut shop in a land where churros are plentiful, Duck Donuts' customization options are apparently winning hearts and minds in Puerto Rico. According to News is My Business, Duck Donuts partnered with three Puerto Rican entrepreneurs (Jorge Ramos, Juan Carlos Piñero, and Delmarie Ayala) who plan to open three locations in Puerto Rico. All three locations will serve Puerto Rican coffee alongside Duck Donuts' classic customizable cake donuts. 

The original Bayamón shop opened in June of 2020, and we would like to go, because it's important to honor the original intent of Duck Donuts: eating donuts on the beach. Do donuts pair well with piña coladas? We don't know (yet), but someone has to do that research.

Duck Donuts is expanding internationally

After selling the majority stake of the company to a private equity firm in 2021, Duck Donuts is set for some serious growth. More donuts available to more people? It's nothing but a good thing! Some of its new projects are close to home (hi, Canada!), but the Middle East apparently has an appetite for American-style donuts too. 

In October of 2020, Bake Magazine reported that a Duck Donuts shop opened in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and in April 2021 they reported that Duck Donuts had signed a deal to open 25 locations in Egypt over the next five years. Then, in August of 2021, QSR Magazine announced the opening of Duck Donuts in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Desert donuts are way better than a donut desert, and it's good to know that a) all cultural differences can be bridged through sharing donuts and b) that American-style donuts are increasingly available for international travelers, as well as lucky ducks in other countries. 

On the other end of the thermometer are the three planned locations in Ontario, Canada, a place so chilly that a warm donut becomes a necessity. Bake Magazine quotes new franchise owner Diana Reid, who says that "Per capita, Canadians eat more donuts than any other nation." Hopefully Tim Hortons is ready for the competition!

Expect to see more Duck Donuts shops soon

You know when you see a duck swimming across a pond, and they look so serene, but you know that underneath the water their legs are paddling away like they're in an Olympic swimming relay? Duck Donuts is kind of like that duck: It looks cool, but beneath those nicely preened feathers, it's bubbling away like a deep fryer. In its short life, Duck Donuts has gone from slinging donuts on the North Carolina beach to world-conquering donut heavyweights. And they're not stopping there: Duck Donuts have plans to be a big duck in the crowded pond that is the donut shop market. 

In February of 2021, Bake Magazine reported that the 100th Duck Donuts shop opened in Louisville, Kentucky (with a life-size duck mascot on hand for the ribbon cutting). A couple of lucky duck Kentuckyans walked away with a year's worth of free donuts, and a whole community was sprinkled with happiness, seasonal donuts, and a new source of joy. Based on what we've seen so far from these plucky ducks, their goal of opening 300 stores by 2025 (per The Virginian-Pilot) seems totally doable. Donut look away, donut duck and cover: Duck Donuts will soon be in your town, bringing vacation vibes to even the Mondayest of mornings.