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Duck Donuts: Made-to-order concept glazes into the heart of Savannah

Duck Donuts is at 7400 Abercorn the Savannah Centre. The entrance is on the Hodgson Memorial side.

EACH NEW YEAR brings oaths of change, resolving to set aside old habits.

That being said, there is at least one new place in town that is worth breaking a resolution for, and not only for its Instagram-ability.

Duck Donuts, which calls itself the fastest growing donut shop in the U.S., glazed its way into Savannah’s bellies on December 1, 2017.

The first Duck Donuts locations opened simultaneously in Kitty Hawk and Duck, North Carolina in 2007. With mounting popularity, the first franchise location opened in Williamsburg, Va., in 2013. Now, Duck Donuts is currently set to have over 190 locations in 23 states.

Duck Donuts strategically focuses on easily accessible locations in densely populated areas, in order to best serve community members. The Savannah shop is located at 7400 Abercorn, as it is central and close to many local businesses, schools and local family neighborhoods. 

When it comes to the food industry, the word franchise is marred with the stigma of mass-produced, freezer burned, and low-grade quality. As for Duck Donuts, owners of the Savannah location Zak and Lindsay Ward set the record straight,

“Our donuts are made to order. The Duck Donut experience is what makes us unique. Upon entering the store, customers are welcomed with the aroma of warm, light vanilla cake donuts, which are a little crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and freshly made the moment you order them,” says Zak.

“Once the customer selects their coating, topping and drizzle combinations, our family-friendly store offers a viewing area where children and adults alike can watch their donuts being made from scratch to finish.”

Zak reports that they are “thrilled to bring Duck Donuts a little deeper into the South here in Savannah.”

“We wanted to be a part of the community...We provide a fun, family-friendly experience and usually once people try us out, they come back for more!”

The Wards originally settled in Beaufort, S.C., for the first seven years of their marriage and then resided in Williamsburg, Va., for the last seven years. While there, the couple learned the craft of donut making, spending many hours in the Williamsburg donut shop.

Zak Ward gained a savvy business sense from his medical device company and Lindsay Ward brings her interpersonal skills to the business from an elementary teaching background. 

Together they chose Savannah as their home, embracing the local community.

Zak states, “In only our first month and a half of being open, we have partnered with various local schools to host Spirit Days where a portion of the sales driven in by the school for a certain pre-selected day is given back to the institute.”

Duck Donuts Savannah also has a program called Quack Gives Back, which promotes partnering with community groups to raise awareness and funds for their causes.

“Whether the designated organization is looking for donations or fundraising opportunities, Quack Gives Back is a vehicle to accomplish this,” Zak explains.

Upon entering Duck Donuts Savannah, whirls of vanilla cake aroma dance through the air, igniting a child-like joy that comes with treating yourself to an indulgent confection. Vast arrays of trimmings beckon any combination.

Chocolate drizzle, maple icing, raspberry swirl, powered sugar, shredded coconut, rainbow sprinkles, salted caramel and so much more.

However, if that seems overwhelming, Duck Donuts proposes signature donut flavor combinations for the indecisive.

“In addition to the coatings, toppings and drizzles we offer year round, we like to highlight the flavors of the season. Available only for a limited time, typically a few months, we will feature a new flavor and sprinkles to celebrate the season. For example, mint icing in the winter and key lime icing coming this spring,” Zak highlights.

The “Bacon in the Sun” is an all-time favorite sweet and salty combo, with maple icing, fresh-made chopped bacon and salted caramel drizzle. For something even sweeter, “The Boardwalk” is a crave-able glazed donut with Oreo crumbs, powdered sugar and vanilla drizzle.

When the selection is made, the magic begins. Scratch-made vanilla cake donut batter is whisked on command the instant the order is placed.

From there, the batter is poured into the hopper of an automatic donut making machine, that does everything from molding and temperature control to frying and turning.

“It takes about a minute and a half to cook the donuts and depending on size of the order, we strive to have our customer’s orders done in under 10 minutes,” Zak says.

“We have the capability to make over 50 dozen donuts per machine per hour”.

Once golden brown to perfection, the donut is transferred from a conveyor belt to a rotating platter, where a “Donut Artisan” retrieves the piping hot pastry.

Patrons not only watch this process, but also observe as their donuts are glazed and dressed to their liking.

Cake donuts, opposed to yeast donuts, allow for the made-to-order concept, given that proofing the dough, allowing several hours for it to rise is unnecessary. This comes with the understanding that cake donuts are moist and dense in the center and cannot be filled with jams or custards.

Duck Donuts uses that to their advantage, getting creative with the OBX Donut Breakfast Sandwich. The customer has their choice of egg, cheese, sausage or bacon served between a fresh warm donut and topped with bacon and maple drizzle. 

When the Savannah heat returns, patrons can also indulge in a Donut Sundae, where scratch-made donuts are served with milky Breyers ice cream and topped with any combination of goodies.