What is in this article?:
- Psycho Donuts benefits from designer doughnut trend
- Responding to critics
Founder Jordan Zweigoron said the concept is preparing for growth.
Long before the Cronut sparked a dessert mashup trend, Psycho Donuts set out to shake up the pastry world.
The two-unit doughnut concept launched in 2009 in Campbell, Calif., as an “asylum for wayward donuts.” Restaurants have a comic mental-hospital theme: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” meets Tim Burton.
Doughnuts are served by “Psycho nurses” wearing white uniforms — and, if they’re in the mood, zombie makeup. Guests are greeted with a square of bubble wrap to pop, which helps with “selection anxiety,” and both locations have a padded cell where they can take photos.
Founder Jordan Zweigoron, "chief psycho," said the response has been tremendous, and the concept is preparing for growth. “I really feel this has legs,” he said.
A third unit is in the works, and Zweigoron has put out a call for franchisees to gauge interest, though the company hasn’t officially launched a franchising program yet.
He declined to reveal sales figures but he said the time is right for Psycho Donuts to move outside its San Francisco Bay-area base, especially given the growing interest in dessert mashups and exotic doughnuts.
The frenzy surrounding products like the Cronut — a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, which was developed in New York by Dominique Ansel Bakery — has “raised the bar” for the dessert world, he said.
“It used to be we’d come up with something simple and people would say, ‘Wow,’” he said. “But now it takes some real ingenuity to make people say, ‘Wow.’”
The core menu, with desserts priced between $1 and $5, is, indeed, a bit crazy.
There’s the Headbanger, a doughnut iced with a frowning face and bleeding raspberry jelly. The Comfortably Numb is a powdered doughnut twisted as if wearing a strait jacket and that promises guests will “find their inner chocolate” if they let go and relax.
The Jasonut is a chocolate raised doughnut filled with “bloody raspberry filling” and decorated with a powdered-sugar hockey mask. And there’s the Dead Elvis, a cream-filled doughnut with bananas, bacon, peanut butter and jelly. (“You’ll think you died on the throne!”)
In 2010, Psycho Donuts brought in baker Ron Levi as “doctor of donut derangement,” who has been developing innovative iterations of the dessert. His hits have included a line of gourmet cocktail doughnuts, such as the Strawberry Margarita filled with tequila cream, Key lime and salt.
Levi also created the Psycho Psushi doughnut: small, rectangular doughnuts dressed like sushi in a bento box with edible Pocky-brand chopsticks.
“We’re always trying to challenge people’s perception of what a doughnut is,” Zweigoron said.
Guests have asked for Cronuts, so Levi responded with another mashup: The Danolli, a cross between a doughnut and a cannoli. A doughnut is filled with impastata pastry cream and rolled in crushed cannoli shells. Each end is dipped in mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels, and a chocolate drizzle is layered on top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Preparing for growth has brought a shift away from what Zweigoron described as being more of a “novelty product” in the first year to a concept that has more depth.
Catering has expanded, and Psycho does a lot of custom work, including doughnut wedding cakes, Spiderman doughnuts for birthday parties, and doughnuts with logos for tech company product launches, Zweigoron said.