All About Donut Robots

I get a lot of calls for donut robots from people who don’t really understand what they can and can’t do. So I thought it might be helpful to write a blog post dedicated to the subject of donut robots

Most people understand that the robots offer some level of automation, and that is what often grabs their attention. While this is true, many of the models on the market are designed only for cake donut production. This may be great for a concession type business, but for a stand-alone donut shop, it’s yeast raised donuts that normally hog the spotlight. And yeast donuts are a different process to prepare for frying- they can’t just be mixed and deposited by a donut robot straight into the fryer like cake donuts can.

continued…

A few people that called me over the years even thought that the donut robots were like home bread machines- that you can just add some ingredients and turn it on, and the robot will spit out ready to serve donuts. This is definitely not the case.

For cake donuts, I recommend a commercial dry mix. Making them from scratch ingredients is possible, but very tricky to get consistently good results with. Donut mixes from companies such as Dawn Foods or BakeMark have been blended for good flavor, tolerance to changing shop conditions, and easy preparation. You need some kind of mixer, usually a vertical stand mixer which can be as basic as a Kitchen Aid from any department or kitchen wares store, but I would recommend at least a 20 quart mixer of a proper commercial grade. Once the batter is prepared, it goes into the donut robot’s depositor hopper and the machine does the rest, discharging fried donuts at the other end. They still have to be decorated (sugar, glazes, icings, toppings, etc).

For some tips on making good cake donuts, see the Downloads page.

Yeast donuts, on the other hand, require more steps to prepare for frying. You have to mix the dough, allow some time to let fermentation begin, roll out the dough to a consistent thickness, then cut your donut shapes out and place them on proof/fry screens (or proofing cloths). These cut donuts then need to get their final proof or fermentation, essentially allowing them to rise like any other yeast-raised dough product, and this is usually done in a humidified cabinet called a proofer or proof-box. It is only once they’ve risen that they can be loaded into a fryer. Now, at this stage they are quite fragile. If you handle them too abruptly they will gas out on you, like deflating a balloon, and they will not likely revive themselves when fried. They won’t look like plump healthy donuts. This is where the challenge comes in when using a donut robot.

Companies like Belshaw do make some special accessories to allow certain models of their robots to handle yeast raised donuts and feed them into the fryer properly. As far as I know, those accessories are only available for the Mark II and the Mark VI models. This is where quite a few donut robot inquiries get “derailed” so to speak. The caller wants to open a donut shop and wants to buy a Mark II to do all of their donut production. Well, technically this can be done. If they purchase all the correct accessories, which could easily add up to $10,000 or more in total with the robot itself. The problem is that a Mark II isn’t really big and fast enough to service a successful donut shop with all varieties of donuts, including both cake and yeast donuts.

On paper, the machine is rated at an output max of around 37 dozen donuts per hour. That sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But that is peak output under ideal conditions with constant uninterrupted throughput. This is not the real world. In the real world you would have some changeover time between product varieties. But even more importantly, donuts are usually considered to be a JIT (Just In Time) product- meaning freshness is critical to keep customers coming back for more. Now combine that with the fact that the donut business is also usually condensed into a smaller window of time. There is a huge rush in the morning hours that probably forms the biggest chunk of the day’s sales. So back to our little Mark II robot friend… he would probably have to start the previous night to have it all done by the time the early birds hit at around 5 – 6 AM. And by the peak of the morning rush, the first donuts made that are out on the shelves are already almost half a day old. Once again, it can be done. But it stretches out the production hours so much that it poses a challenge to staff scheduling, overall labor cost, freshness of the product, and also accelerated wear and tear on the equipment.

As an alternative example, if you take the smallest manual batch fryer that you would see in most independent donut shops or cafes, that would be the floor standing 18″ x 26″ batch fryer, it is rated at 65 – 80 dozen donuts per hour. This is double of what the Mark II is rated at. The donut shop may not sell that many per hour even at the peak of the day, but if you asked the baker or the shop owner, “what would you say if we cut your donut fryer capacity in half?”, my bet is he/she would tell you “no way” or they might just throw you out of the store!

So, the only donut robot model that, in my humble opinion, is sufficient to supply a thriving donut shop business with a full variety of just-in-time fresh donuts is the Mark VI. At Bakery Equipment.com we have several nice used Mark VI fryers and fryer packages that we can customize to fit your needs, at a fraction of the price of new equipment. Call Darren at 360-876-7250 ext 225 (toll free in USA 888-869-5737) for more information and pricing.

Here is the link to a video of a Mark VI set-up in operation:

Mark VI video

30 Responses to “All About Donut Robots”

  • Doug mack says:

    Hello ,
    I have an old Donot Robot DR42 that is missing the control panel with heating element. Do you have an otherwise broken machine that you could “part out”?
    thanks

    • donutadmin says:

      No sorry, I don’t have access to any DR42 parts at the moment. All I can suggest is that you identify some more established Belshaw authorized service companies around the country and start calling them one by one until you find one that has new/used DR42 parts on hand. You might be able to identify these companies either by google search or from the Belshaw website, http://www.belshaw.com

  • Thanks for the great post. This was very accurate and extremely helpful as I continue to play with the idea of adding donuts to our already busy cafe. I have a small operation with limited space. I already have a proofer and ovens for our bread production. I am installing new ovens requiring additional vent hoods. During this renovation I am considering putting in an additional 4 foot hood space and suppression system for the potential donut fryer addition. Can you please contact me and let me know approximatly how much floor space I would need inorder to have a small donut operation added to my shop? Thank you for your time. I look forward to working with you.

    • donutadmin says:

      eMail sent. I don’t get involved much, nor do I have a lot of experience, in location layout or design, but I’m thinking a minimum of 500 sq ft is needed, but can be cramped, 600 sq ft or more is better. It’s not just room for a bakers table and fryer/glazer/icer, but also sinks and ingredient storage, possibly some refrigeration (for fruit fillings or whip cream etc). This is not additional space if you already have some bakery/food production going on and are just adding donuts. So, it can be shared space, like for example you can use the same mixer and bakers table, sinks and storage, for muffins, cookies, etc. The “additional” space would be for the fryer and donut finishing. Call me to discuss further if/when needed

  • Phil Quinn says:

    We run a pick your own fruit & veg farm & are locking for a mark VI unit for the coming season. It would need to be equipped for cake donuts.
    Can you help?

    Farmer Phil Q.

    • donutadmin says:

      Mark VI only with Belshaw Type F cake donut depositor and wall or table mount, $5995, or a more complete Mark VI pkg with yeast-raised feed table, EZ Melt VI, customs steel tables for feeder, fryer and accumulator (holds 17 x 25 glazing/cooling screens) and Type F cake depositor mounted to table $9995. Price is reconditioned, cleaned and tested prior to shipping from Missouri. Freight extra.

  • Greg Myers says:

    I noticed you said the shipping was from Missouri. I live in St. Louis, Missouri and my partner and I are still working up ideas (far from opening, but very enthusiastic) Where is the equipment distributor located and would it be possible to pick up the equipment instead of shipping it?

    • donutadmin says:

      We have a used equipment shop/warehouse in Missouri, but we also sell new equipment that ships from wherever that manufacturer is located, and we sell used equipment for 3rd parties too. This means that on any given equipment package, chances are there will be some combination of new and used, and of the used- it may be our inventory or stuff we are selling for somebody else. So typically any multiple item transaction means several shipping locations, and separate truck shipments. We can consolidate mutliple items from different sources at our warehouse, but that usually offers no savings since the customer is essentially paying shipping twice for each item that is not in our inventory. What you will find is that in this competitive and low overhead internet based selling age we are in, there are very few brick and mortar shops left. And those that are left are only stocking mainstream essentials. I doubt you would be able to find any dealer who would happen to have everything you need to open a shop in stock, on hand, all ready to ship on one truck- unless they are building those additional costs into your prices and bringing it all in when you order it…. like creating just a bit of an illusion really. But to answer your question, yes you can pick up equipment in Missouri, but it would only be what used equipment we happen to have in stock at that time. Thanks for your question. Call me if there’s any confusion or when it gets closer to the time to start making acquisitions.

  • Winnie King says:

    My partner and I are planning to open a donut shop in about 6 months. Based upon what we are planning to sell and after reading your responses to previous questions it sounds like we would need the complete Mark VI set up you described that would run about $10K plus freight. Here is my question. Since we are located in Houston is there any customer support or training that you offer? Do you have access to a company that can set up the Mark VI and give employee training? I see that there is a Belshaw rep in Dallas but we have been advised to purchase a used, reconditioned unit rather than a new one for cost savings. Would appreciate your advise. Thanks.

    • donutadmin says:

      We can recommend or sub out to a company that can set up the equipment and make sure it is working right, but I don’t know if that is necessary for what it would cost you since our equipment is shipped tested and guaranteed working order. Service companies are expensive by the hour, for anything other than repairs. And the employee training part is difficult- service companies only know machinery, they are not bakers. Equipment suppliers like us our usually not one-stop-shops either, we don’t have a crew of trained bakers that fly all over to help new bakeries get started. If we did, we’d need to charge so much that nobody would buy anything from us. Some of the ingredient suppliers have trained bakers that you may be able to book for a free demo in your bakery once you have equipment in place. As long as they are courting you as a steady buyer of their donut mixes and ingredients they may provide this service at no additional charge. But for the love of Pete, pleeeease don’t wait unti la month before your grand opening is scheduled and order your equipment expecting it all to be in stock and delivered promptly. leaving yourself like a window of two days between install, start-up, training and opening your doors to the public. I see this too often with new inexperienced owners who have unrealistic expectations of the equipment industry and are so paranoid about every day they are paying rent on a building without being open for business. You really have to have deep enough pockets to get a business like this off the ground.

  • Allan S. says:

    Good information..I am trying to set up a small doughnuts shop mainly producing yeast raised doughnuts. My budget is very small, and I will not need more than a 10 dozens a day to begin with..and I am looking at MarkI..I am just want to know if I am on the right path, you seem to emphasise on MarkIV

    • donutadmin says:

      The Mark series is mainly designed for cake donuts. Although accessories are available for a few models to allow yeast donut production, the cost vs output ratio gets kinda ugly compared to a simple batch/kettle fryer. Keep in mind that with yeast donuts, the only thing the robot is really automating vs a batch fry method is the flipping over of the donuts. My theory is that if a Mark I or Mark II is adequate to supply a proper variety of cake and yeast donuts, on a just in time freshness schedule for peak business, at a normal retail donut shop, then your business probably does not have enough business to be profitable. This is why I emphasize the Mark VI, if you really want that bit extra automation, since it is the only machine that is really capable to putting out a large variety of yeast and cake donuts in a short period of time to make sense for a viable operation, with regards to labor cost, training and keeping staff, scheduling hours vs rush hours of business, having fresh donuts not 5 hours old for those peak times, etc.

  • New to the business says:

    Hi,

    My question is two part:

    Is there such a thing as a dry yeast donut mix and if so which one is best.

    Can I start a home based business where I only deliver to a few accounts a day to get started, and be profitable? No machines now all hand made operation now with possible expansion later?

    Just looking for your opinion.

    Thanks

    • donutadmin says:

      I’ve been out of the baking part for quite a while now so I’m not exactly up to date on ingredient and mix developments in recent times. Of the yeast raised donut mixes I have used, which have only been two different brands, the one that I liked the best that is still available today, is Dawn Foods:
      http://www.dawnfoods.com/Public/Dynamic/Products/ProductsCategory2.asp?cat0=8&cat1=14&PTid=2
      As for the profitability question, all I can offer is if you get enough demand from those few accounts, and a firm commitment from those accounts to not get flakey on you and discontinue your product too quickly or unexpectedly, as long as you home meets the requirements for this type of business (health dept, zoning, town/city/county permits, with adequate controls and utilities in place, and your investment in equipment is minimal as possible) it could be profitable. It may not make you wealthy, and it may not even prove to be sustainable in the long run, but it could be a good first step towards eventually moving out and opening a full retail donut shop with added wholesale business. In my humble opinion, to really be profitable to the point where the business can become or even exceed an equivalent of full-time employment for the owner, it would have to be a well located and well executed full blown retail donut shop (preferably with wholesale business to supplement the shop sales).
      Donuts are available all over the place in North America and what many retailers or potential wholesale accounts are looking for is some combination of quality, branding, and price/profitability which would be a big expectation from a home based start-up. In many areas you even have well equipped big names like Krispy Kreme looking for wholesale accounts. There are other bakery products that would much better fit that profile for home-based small wholesale business, like cakes, cupcakes, and other more high end specialty items that aren’t available on every other street corner. But maybe your city or location has an unusually low donut shop to population ratio?

  • Rich says:

    Does a robot require a hood or fire equipment?

    • donutadmin says:

      This really depends on your location and how you are regulated there- could be a lease agreement stipulation or local fire code, etc. This varies from one location to another so you would have to check with your landlord or local authorities. Most normal indoor installations will require some kind of hood over any open kettle fryer, sometimes even fire suppression will be required, while other locations in another part of the country may get away without anything at all…

  • Ernancita Gonzales says:

    Kindly advise me what kind of oil should I used in making the dough nut…I will make some for the kids during our Bible study during sunday school

    • donutadmin says:

      Sorry I missed this question as it was buried amongst all the spam I get. For doughnuts in a comercial or retail higher volume setting shops usually use a solid vegetable shortening made specifically for frying, available from bakery ingredient suppliers and distributors. But for smaller non-commercial applications I would think you can just use any available liquid oil you would use for deep frying.

  • shehu says:

    I will be glad if you can give me a total cost for Belshaw Donut Robot 6 because you said; At Bakery Equipment.com we have several nice used Mark VI fryers and fryer packages that we can customize to fit your needs, at a fraction of the price of new equipment. to start a donuts in commercial high rate volume

    • donutadmin says:

      You’d have to contact me by phone or provide more detailed information as to what you want your package to include. The basic price for a used Mark VI yeast donut production system is US$7995.00 but it is not complete until you add other support equipment like mixer, proofer, glazer, trays/cloths, etc. So I need more info. Contact me through BakeryEquipment.com not here on my blog please.

  • Juli says:

    We have a Mark II system and it has worked very well for our small store here in rural Vermont. I was wondering if you know where I might be able to purchase a second donut depositor for our machine. It would help us meet our demand and allow us to change flavors of dough without having to clean out the one in production. Any help will be appreciated.
    Thanks, Juli

  • James says:

    How often would you recommend changing the oil for a Mark VI?

    • donutadmin says:

      Depends on usage, but if frying several hours daily, I would filter every day and change out oil completely every other week to monthly. Usually when you notice discoloration, a off taste in the product, or notice smoke or bakers’ eyes irritated when working at the fryer, it’s time to change

  • Rafael says:

    Hello,

    I am looking for donut suppliers that have the capability to produce cake and yeast donuts in pretty large quantity to then freeze them for later use at donut shops. Any god ideas?

    • donutadmin says:

      As far as I recall, some of the larger commercial bakery frozen dough manufacturers do this, such as Rich’s Products, Maplehurst Bakeries, and I’m sure there are others. You could probably try Dawn Foods as well. But note that delivered cost per unit will be quite high and they don’t always stand up too well to the long distance shipping and distribution process very well.

  • Llew says:

    hi i have a belshaw mark 2 and when it operates the conveyer moves to the side what can the problem be – sorry im in south africa
    regards
    Llew

    • donutadmin says:

      Sorry I am not a technician, and am unfortunately unable to offer any advice in the service and repair department. You’d have to try calling Belshaw tech support or the appropriate representative for your area. If you visit belshaw.com you should be able to download a operator’s manual which may show how to perform some basic maintenance.

  • Symon says:

    Dear sir,

    I live in Kenya east Africa and I am very interested in automated donut production business. I am currently doing hand made table cut cake donuts and seemingly the demand is far more than what I can supply. My finances are not that great so I am considering a used belshaw mark 6. I have never physically seen the machine in action save for the U tube videos of it. Donut are a new phenomenon here and I expect to quickly have a return on my investment and make serious profits.

    How much would a used mark 6 complete with a type f depositor for cake donuts cost me? I am not interested in yeast donut equipment.

    Can you ship to Kenya if I take care of shipping costs and custom charges on my end?

    What is the projected CIF price for the mark 6 fryer and the type f depositor both used but reconditioned.

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