Long before the first Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owner opened a central kitchen (CML), Belshaw was already established as a leader in the manufacture of donut machines. By the time Bill Rosenberg opened the first Dunkin’ store, Belshaw was already selling its machines internationally. By the mid 1960’s, Belshaw machines were helping franchise owners make donuts in the backs of their stores and when the first CMLs went on line in the late 1990’s, Belshaw was the brand standard.
Today, Belshaw provides fryers and proofers and finishers to CMLs in New England, Illinois, Florida and Kentucky. They enjoy a unique relationship with the brand, the DCPs and the franchise owners.
“We’re one of the few vendors who can sell directly to franchise owners and the DCPs,” said Roger Faw, president of Belshaw. “Because of that, we can take the layers out of the cost.”
But, it’s not just price that’s positioned Belshaw as an industry leader; it’s also innovation.
“Recently, we’ve been focusing on equipment for finishing. We’ve come out with a sugar tumbler for powdered donuts and a machine that automates icing,” said Faw. “Now we’re working on automatic jelly fillers. We showed the prototype (at the Dunkin’ Brands convention) in New Orleans. We hope to introduce it for test in June.”
Belshaw’s innovations help franchise owners achieve efficiency and consistency—the critical components of a successful operation, according to CML operators. The icing machine, for example, can finish three dozen donuts at once as opposed to having a person hold a donut in one hand and a spatula in the other.
“Their equipment absolutely supports the consistency of the product,” said Mark Dubinsky who runs a CML in Methuen, Massachusetts. “I made plenty of donuts in the back of my family’s store—and I was pretty good—but I never made them as good and consistent as the ones we turn out today with Belshaw equipment.”
“We know that in the business of donut production we are one of one. There is no other supplier like Belshaw,” said Faw. “The reason we are successful is because of what we do for the franchise owner after they buy our equipment.”
“What’s helped us is that Belshaw knew exactly what we needed and the right specs. Their product was custom designed for our end result,” said Peter Martins, co-owner of the JNS Commissary, part of the Salema network, which produces 20,000 dozen bakery products for 43 Dunkin’ Donuts locations in western Massachusetts.
Because of their long experience working with Dunkin’ franchise owners and CMLs Belshaw understands why a Dunkin’ bakery has different needs than, say, an Entenmann’s bakery. Dunkin’ products are not created to have a long shelf life, they are not shrink-wrapped and, even with all the automation available today, they are still touched by human hands.
Martins doesn’t see a fully automated process replacing the current process any time soon. That’s because of the dough that is used to make a Dunkin’ donut.
“Dunkin’ has had this recipe for a long time and it’s been really well received. If we were fully automated, they might have to tweak the recipe and that’s not something that could happen without a major change determined by the brand,” he said.
“One of the great things about the CML program is the level of cooperation between the brand, the franchise owner and us,” said Faw. “Some of the best ideas for how to improve equipment or operations come from the CML but, we don’t do anything to change the process without approval from Dunkin’ corporate.”
That’s why Dunkin’ will extensively test the new jelly-filling equipment before it’s offered to the CMLs. As Martins noted, adding jelly to a hot donut or munchkin is not that simple.
“You have to handle the dough carefully and gently all the way through. The donut is hot and gets damaged easily. Up until now there hasn’t been a machine that can barely touch the donut to protect its quality,” said Martins.
Dubinsky says he hasn’t seen the prototype jelly-filler yet but, “If it works I’d be interested in testing it and analyzing to see if it made sense for my operation.”
Innovation and automation from Belshaw have helped CML operators turn out more consistent products over the last 17 years. The donuts, munchkins and specialty goods are just what the customer ordered, and the efficiency created by Belshaw machines is just what CML operators wanted.
“Everyone has an equal interest in making this thing successful. It’s been a good ride,” said Faw.