Daylight Donuts


Daylight Donuts thrives by treating people right and delivering quality products.

By Alan Dorich

For 64 years, Daylight Donuts has thrived by staying true to its original donut mix. “Our customers tell us, ‘This is the best donut I’ve ever eaten,’” Vice President of Development Mike Carpenter says. “We have no desire to change.”

Based in Tulsa, Okla., the company has locations in the United States that sell its donuts, cinnamon rolls, sausage rolls and coffee. Thomas Day co-founded Daylight Donuts with his wife Lucille in 1954, with the goal of creating a mix that produced a very light donut.

The two produced the mix during the mornings and sold it to shops in the afternoon, primarily from the trunk of their car. When sales of the products saw an increase, the couple hired two more employees and built a 20,000-square-foot facility for the company.Daylight fact box

Today, Daylight Donuts has 437 locations across the United States. The company, which enjoyed sales of $95 million last year, focuses the majority of its business in the Southeast and Midwest. “Ohio has been a very popular state for us,” Carpenter adds.

Although Daylight Donuts may never reach the heights of some of its major competitors like Dunkin’ Donuts, “That’s not our focus,” Carpenter asserts. “From a quality aspect, we think we’re hands-down better.”

This is largely due to its mix, which comes in raised and cake varieties. Its stores currently offer chocolate and blueberry raised donuts, along with sour cream, chocolate, blueberry and old-fashioned buttermilk cake donuts. “[We also have] a red velvet we’re working on,” he adds.

The Right Way

Carpenter, who joined Daylight Donuts in 1977, credits its success to its culture. “One of the old adages is ‘We say what we’ll do and we do what we say,’” he says. “We treat people right.”

This includes its franchisees. For example, while Daylight Donuts offers a license agreement, “We don’t charge a license fee and we don’t charge royalties,” Carpenter says.

Instead, the company usually can help them get their locations open for an investment of only $140,000, which includes the lease, site improvements and inventory. “There’s not a lot of business opportunities you can do for that,” he says, noting that this draws in franchisees.

But the operation of a Daylight Donuts location requires a specific type of person. “It’s not an easy occupation,” Carpenter admits, adding that work usually begins for its franchisees at one or two o’clock in the morning. “It’s hard to adjust to.”

Its franchisees, he notes, usually consist of retired seniors who have downsized and are looking for another decade of productivity in their lives. Although the operation of a Daylight Donuts can be challenging, “It can be a very comfortable business if you operate things right,” he says.

The company helps make them more comfortable with full training, as well as ongoing service through its representatives. “Our reps’ goal is to make face-to-face contact at least two times a year,” he says. “There are some that we may see 12 times a year.” 

Daylight Donuts also sells them its proprietary line of equipment, which is designed strictly for the donut business.

“It wasn’t adapted from something meant to cook french fries, but our mix recipe,” Carpenter declares. “We give them a nationally recognized trademark and logo to use as a licensee.”

Eyes Open

Daylight Donuts is keeping its eyes open for new areas to invest. ”Something that is gaining strength is a mini donut,” Carpenter says, explaining that the product can be cooked in front of the customer and decorated to their specific order.

Currently, the company is testing the product in a few of its locations. “It’s got sustainability,” he says, noting that the mini donuts may follow in the footsteps of the recent cupcake trend. “They could be one of the more exciting things today.”  

Carpenter sees a strong future for Daylight Donuts, with controlled, manageable growth ahead. “We’re going to hit possibly 14 new locations this year,” he says, “We had a very good year in donut mix sales last year, so we’re scrambling to not look back.

“This year, we’ve had some positive months,” Carpenter continues, adding that the company’s privately-owned status also helps it thrive. “We don’t have stockholders to answer to and we have nobody to please but ourselves and our owners.” 


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