Five business lessons from the Cronut

The latest gastro craze to come from New York has gone viral in less than a month. MT looks at what businesses can learn from their sudden rise to delicious notoriety.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 31 Jul 2014

The Cronut is the brainchild of New York chef Dominique Ansel – a combination of a donut and a croissant, but infused with vanilla cream. New Yorkers have gone crazy for the pastries, queueing around the block and even selling them on Craigslist. What can businesses learn from their sudden explosion in popularity?

1. You can improve on perfection.

The Cronut is a combination of a donut and a croissant – two bakery stalwarts that no one’s thought to change for decades. But that didn’t stop Ansel, who apparently had to rethink his recipe 10 times, eventually settling on frying his new creation in grapeseed oil to achieve the perfect combination of crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside.

2. Limiting supply is good for sales – and for your team

Ansel reportedly only makes 200 Cronuts a day, selling them off at $5 a pop – but that doesn’t stop New Yorkers flocking to his eponymous bakery every morning from 6am, queueing round the block in the hope of getting their hands on one. Ansel could easily produce more – he told he’s ‘seen some people crying’ when they’ve been disappointed. But by keeping the supply limited, he has given his creation a sort of mythological status, guaranteeing that he’ll sell out every day.

3. Keep a tight leash on your IP

When Ansel realised he was on to a winner, he did what any good entrepreneur would do: he trademarked the name and kept the recipe a closely-guarded secret. When the craze started, he was the only one cashing in. Admittedly there have been attempts at copying the Cronut – Doissant, anyone? – but those who have tried the real thing report that they pale by comparison. There’s even a black market for the pastries on US Gumtree equivalent Craigslist, where they have sold for up to $40.

4. You can’t predict what your next hit will be

When Ansel completed his first batch of Cronuts on 10 May (ie less than a month ago), the pastries were designed as a treat for his staff. Ansel said he wanted to make a doughnut-like pastry, ‘but I didn’t really ever want to make a doughnut, so I did it my way and infused it with a croissant’. When the Cronuts did go on sale, the craze spread by word-of-mouth. Ansel reports that he hasn’t done any marketing.

5. … but it helps to have a good reputation

Ansel’s bakery is already a hot spot in New York’s Soho, having won a wealth of awards including Serious Eats’ Best Sweet Bite of 2012, while one of its dishes was listed among the New York Post’s hottest 21st Century French dishes. Ansel himself was a finalist in the highly competitive James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef award – so when the bakery created a new dish, New Yorkers knew it would be good.

- Photo: Flickr/ccho

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