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New Doughnut Shop Owners Learn The ‘Hole’ Business

May 24, 1986

BRAINTREE, Mass. (AP) _ The college has no sports teams, no school newspaper and no pub, but it does hold classes around the clock.

It is Dunkin’ Donuts University, where students spend their spare time cramming for their ″yeast quiz,″ brushing up on ″freshness scheduling″ and preparing for their grueling final exam - making enough doughnuts to fill the shelves in a Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

Their goal is to become a successful owner or manager of one of the more than 1,400 doughnut-and-coffee outlets franchised by the chain, which is based in Randolph, Mass.

″It’s a little bit tougher than I thought it would be,″ said Juelene Sorensen Beck as she wiped a wisp of flour off her forehead.

Ms. Sorensen Beck, 32, was in her fourth week of the six-week curriculum and had just finished making dozens of doughnuts in one of the training school’s three large kitchens.

The cream of her crop might have ended up on display in a mock Dunkin’ Donuts store at the ″college,″ housed in an industrial area of this Boston suburb.

The purpose of the 18-year-old training center is not just to polish the skills of would-be doughnut makers but to weed out potential problem franchisees, said Robert Harloe, the training director for Dunkin’ Donuts.

″If you should fail, and some do, you don’t get your franchise,″ he said.

Harloe said about 7 percent of the students, on average, do not pass. Those who fail are given a second chance, but the majority of them realize they are in the wrong field, he said.

″It’s a very physically demanding business,″ Harloe said, adding that many franchise owners have to be on call 24 hours a day and might find themselves glazing crullers at 3 a.m. should an employee call in sick.

″We discourage any absentee franchise owners,″ he said. ″If you think you’re going to work 9 to 5, you’ll be one of the 7 percent.″

Students spend a month learning how to make doughnuts, brownies, cookies and other baked goods during overlapping nine-hour, around-the-clock shifts.

Harloe said the class schedule ″mirrors reality″ since most Dunkin’ Donut shops are open 24 hours.

The students spend two more weeks immersed in the intricacies of how to turn a profit from the sweets and the employees who sell them. The school’s nine instructors are all former store managers.

″For six weeks you eat, sleep, think and make doughnuts,″ said Vern Schellenger, manager of the training center. ″We call it jelly in the veins.″

The numerous quizzes are graded on a percentage scale as they would be at any school, while the goodies produced by the students are subjected to rigorous examination for their weight, height, texture, appearance and, of course, taste, Harloe said.

The cost of the courses is included in the $40,000 fee for a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise. Students must pick up travel expenses to and from the school and their lodging - Dunkin’ Donuts University does not have dormitories.

But before prospective doughnut shop owners can start counting their dough they must come up with a hefty chunk of cash to buy an existing shop or open a new store, since the franchise fee bestows only the right to operate a Dunkin’ Donuts outlet.

Building a new shop or buying an existing one can cost upwards of $500,000 depending on property values, Harloe said.

About 650 students will attend Dunkin’ Donuts U. this year, filling its classes to overflowing, Harloe said. Of these, about 200 are potential franchise owners, while the rest are shop managers or new Dunkin’ Donuts corporate employees, who also must go through the training, he said.

While the school attracts many foreign students lured by the doughnut chain’s increasing overseas presence, all its students share an urge to become entrepreneurs.

″The rewards are terrific,″ Harloe said. ″We’ve got our share of millionaires out there.″

End Adv Weekend Editions May 24-25

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