This is Shari's husband, which means this post must be about donuts. (As they say, you have to go with your strengths.) This morning, for the first time in quite a while I took the three-minute bicycle ride to our local Mr. Donut to get a little sugary breakfast. I saw that there's been one significant change since I was last there: their raised glazed donut, called a 'honey dip,' has been redone. It used to be that it was glazed only very lightly, more along the sides than the top. Now, the glaze is clearly being applied from the top down, there's more of it, and it's presented to customers on wire racks, not in bunches on its side like all other Mister Donut donuts. On the card that identifies the donut, it says 'Rich Donuts,' with some Japanese text about why it's now even better than it used to be.
The ad for the new donuts from Mister Donut's web site.
I found this all very amusing, because it couldn't be more obvious that this is a reaction to the massive (so far) popularity of Krispy Kreme in Japan. The irony is, at least from my point of view, that this donut is still nothing like Krispy Kreme's raised glazed; what's unique about Krispy Kreme is the soft, chewy donut, not the glaze, and the inside of this Mister Donut donut is no different than it used to be. Then again, in Japan, appearance tends to matter more than substance.
Since there's still only the one KK shop in Japan, KK can't be biting into Mister Donut's profits yet, but Mister Donut is clearly not blind to the threat KK represents. Since I wrote about the Krispy Kreme in Shinjuku three months ago, the line one must stand in to get a donut has only gotten longer; the usual wait is an hour, and it can often be an hour and a half.
One student said that there was a long line at 6:30 a.m., a half hour before they open; another said he tried to get in a not-too-long line at 10:30 p.m. only to be told that no further people could get in line, so the shop could close at 11:00 p.m. as scheduled. Most of my students remain mystified as to why so many would wait for so long for donuts, and ascribe it to Japan's well-known herd mentality, the desire to jump onto the current boom. This causes me to wonder if KK can make it in Japan in the long term; what will happen as more shops open, the lines get shorter, people decide that KK is no longer 'hot' and go back to Mister Donut?
Many readers may not have been in Japan long enough to remember the Belgian waffle fad, but there were long lines in front of those shops for a while. We won't know if KK will make it in Japan until at least a few dozen shops have opened. I have no specific knowledge of new shops opening, but if I were them, I'd do it slowly, lest the boom suddenly go bust. Also, KK has an Achilles heel in Japan: some students have said KK donuts are 'too sweet,' a common Japanese comment regarding any American snack food. (Mrs. Fields and Cinnabon failed in Japan because of such sentiment.) Mister Donut may need only wait it out, and keep the Belgian waffles in mind.