Bye Doughnut Time, you will not be missed.
Bye Doughnut Time, you will not be missed.

Please, no more Instagram food

OPINION

THE demise of another retail chain is always unfortunate. Jobs lost, lofty ambitions thwarted. No one wishes that on anyone.

This week's edition of the ongoing high street horror story has featured Doughnut Time, a tooth decay-inducing, achingly trendy chain of, yes, doughnut shops.

Founder Damian Griffiths has sold the chain with the new owners immediately shutting half the stores.

But there could be a silver lining to the drastic downsizing of Doughnut Time. It could be another nail in the coffin of food produced not for eating, but for social media sharing. Where success is measured not on the likes of your tastebuds, but on the likes of other Instagram users.

Doughnut Time was the height of sticky style over substance Picture: Josh Woning
Doughnut Time was the height of sticky style over substance Picture: Josh Woning

The oversized confections from Doughnut Time were the peak of this trend. They were the height of style over substance.

A Lego creation.
A Lego creation.

Why? Because despite all their finery and frippery that made them look just the best online, the doughnuts at Doughnut Time were crap.

They were tasteless. No, not tasteless; they did taste of something, of claggy cardboard liberally sprinkled with sugar. Which is fine if you're presented with fairy bread, not with the second coming of doughnut Christ.

Its website is littered with posted images of its products. It implores its customers to "tag #doughnuttime in your Instagram uploads or send us your snaps on Snapchat!"

And it worked. For a bit. By this year, its turquoise daubed shops had cropped up in the CBDs and trendy suburbs of Australia's major capitals and even as far as London where it has three outlets.

Damian Griffiths founded the chain that expanded massively from its Gold Coast base. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Damian Griffiths founded the chain that expanded massively from its Gold Coast base. Picture: Mark Cranitch

As stores opened, the queues magically appeared. It was the foodie thing to see and be seen with a one of their ludicrously named doughnuts; to bite into a "Deja brew" or pick up "Stifler's mom" or "Liam Hemsworthy".

I queued too. Forgive me, I was seduced. The doughnuts were so pretty, so magnificent, so bright and cheerful, so drizzled and flecked and dipped and chocolate chipped, and just get in my stomach (via my Facebook feed) now you calorific temptress of a treat.

And then? And then I felt nothing. There were textures for sure - mostly gloop and stodge. But flavour, where was that?

The queues for Doughnut Time were legendary. But customers didn’t come back for a second helping.
The queues for Doughnut Time were legendary. But customers didn’t come back for a second helping.

But these doughnuts were never about flavour. Witness the explanation for one of their latest - and maybe last - creations, the "Kinder-er a big deal".

It is described as a "white and orange cream glaze topped with pastel confetti sprinkles, 100's & 1000's and a Kinder Surprise!"

Assuming they mean orange as in the colour, there is nothing in that explanation to actually suggest it has a taste. Unless you salivate to the flavour of metallic packaging on the egg.

Another doughnut came topped with a glass jar. Shards, yum!

Doughnut Time’s creations were colourful. But did they taste of anything in particular?
Doughnut Time’s creations were colourful. But did they taste of anything in particular?

For sure, Doughnut Time was a chain that got too big too quick - a common mistake that leads to many a retail casualty. But it was also a chain based on a fad and built on likes. It was unlikely ever to be around for long when its single selling point was a single product, often dressed up with inedible accoutrements, that was so hip last year.

Fancy doughnuts are destined to follow fancy cupcakes into the great bakery in the sky.

They could have avoided that fate if they had concentrated on a decent product rather than merely an Instagrammable one.

The problem with being the social media plat du jour is very quickly you end up being plat du hier. The queues dry up once the photos are taken, as do the wallets.

Doughnut Time thought by constantly bringing out new, increasingly bizarre products the smartphones would swing into action once more. They were wrong.

Freak shakes be gone too.
Freak shakes be gone too.

So, farewell Doughnut Time. May others learn that food that wows Instagram is worth little if there's no reason to go back - that food has to have substance as well as style.

I pity the employees, some of whom have claimed they have been left out of pocket by the swift store closures.

But I pity not Doughnut Time. And on your way out please take those equally stupid freak shakes with you.

 

benedict.brook@news.com.au



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