David Duff began working at his parents’ Shipley Donuts store in 1978, cutting and frying donuts with the rest of the family in McAllen. That’s why it was startling, 35 years later, when Duff, the owner of two Shipley stores, said, “I’m trying to understand the developing marketplace of a food franchise.”
Shipley Donuts’ customer base requires a fast delivery system. “Our store prides itself on having one of the most efficient and fastest drive-thru windows.” The freshly made donuts and coffee are ready to be quickly bagged or poured. Yet, cars waiting in the driveway can back up on the street and potential customers pass by because of the line. Currently Duff is planning a second, manned drive-thru window to make the process as efficient as possible, while working with the City of McAllen to relieve the traffic problem.
“I’m hoping I get a 20 percent increase in business from the second drive-thru,” Duff said. He noted that Mr. Shipley (of the third generation of the Houston-based company) cautioned him about the potential for annoying twice as many customers if things went wrong.
But Duff has based his successful business on three essentials: great customer service, high quality and consistency. “Those are the things I fight for,” he said. “When customers complain to me, they are complaining for a reason: they want to come back to the store. But they want to see something changed or fixed. You need to be very genuine and try to do it better.”
In Duff’s experience elsewhere, he has observed customer service becoming a lost art. “When people go into a defensive mode when they receive a complaint, it doesn’t help the business retain a customer. I look at customer complaints as a positive to help me and my workers do a better job. You don’t want customers not to come to you. You don’t want them to complain to their friends.” Putting his philosophy into practice, Duff has his cell phone number on his business cards.
Duff eased into the managerial side of his franchise in the early 1990s. “Businesses like these, you need to know how to do anything in the store yourself.” The donut shop is open round the clock, and a crew arrives at midnight to begin making the day’s donuts, cinnamon twists, bear claws and muffins. “A 2 or 3 o’clock phone call was not out of the norm,” Duff said recalling the earliest days. “It’s still the same way today. Sometimes you are putting out fires.”
Duff has seen considerable growth in his Shipley Donuts in Pharr, which he identified as a satellite because the products are made in McAllen. Currently, he is considering opening a satellite Shipley in Edinburg, where a third party is developing a potential property.
To read more on this story by Eileen Mattei, pick up a copy of the July edition of Valley Business Report or visit the “Current & Past Issues” tab on this Web site.