I have plenty of experience as a cronut customer. Urged by my editor three months ago, I tried 12 croissant-donut hybrids with my grandma in two days. I vowed never to touch another cronut again after those incredibly sugary days. But when Krispy Kreme came out with its own version, I caved.
Dominique Ansel launched the legendary pastry in his SoHo bakery in May, starting a worldwide craze. “I think cronuts are what Jesus eats on a Sunday morning,” one early-riser told “The Today Show.” Cronutmania is far from over. Last month, Ansel launched his preorder website, allowing people to reserve as many as six cronuts, which they could claim after two weeks. On the website’s first day, the cronuts sold out in one minute.
One crazy day, I told myself I wanted to turn the tables. What is it like to be on the other end of the madness? To fulfill cronut cravings? I wanted to try being a cronut seller. And I knew exactly where I wanted to work: Bronuts.
Fun and fresh
Since its launch in September, Bronuts has amassed a lot of fans (the brand has 13,000 Instagram followers), all clamoring for more of their playful and sometimes naughty take on the cronut. Bronuts are available only from Friday to Sunday so the demand is always strong, with stocks consistently selling out. Most days, they need to make three deliveries to meet the demand. They sell 1,500 to 2,000 Bronuts a day. (Dominique Ansel sells only 300 to 350 because of kitchen limitations.)
It’s a fun and fresh brand, one I’ve gotten the chance to know last month not because of cronuts but because of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” Their customers know that Bronuts has been donating P5 of every Bronut sold these past weeks to the victims of the typhoon through Junior Chamber International Manila. But they’ve been doing so much more behind the scenes. Medicines, slippers, new underwear, hygiene kits, thousands of pandesal—the people behind Bronuts have sent these and more to the affected areas.
A fun brand with a big heart? Sign me up!
And that’s exactly what they did. I arrived at the Power Plant Mall early last Saturday, ready for my stint with Bronuts. “I want the whole experience,” I told them. “I’m your slave today.”
But the first thing I did wasn’t very slave-like at all. They let me try a bite of each Bronut flavor to familiarize myself with the products I’d be selling. They were so good I couldn’t decide on a favorite. I tried the newest flavor first—Pylones, a collaboration with the French gift shop that I am obsessed with. The Pylones Bronut has dark chocolate shavings on top and a strawberry jam and buttercream filling. The best seller, Belgian Chocolate (Belgian chocolate and toffee crunch on top with salted caramel filling), was rich and sinfully good.
I enjoyed Blueberries & Cream, too (blueberry frosting with custard and blueberry filling)—I loved how the blueberries burst and filled my mouth with flavor. Hijo De Leche (buttercream, cheddar cheese and muscovado sugar on top with yema-like custard filling), inspired by the Spanish-Filipino treat ensaimada, was also a delight. PMS was also a hit—it’s a red Bronut with a Toblerone wedge and pure melted Toblerone on top and cream cheese filling.
Bronuts is also famous for its savory cronuts—Super Floss is covered with homemade mayo, cheese spread and a generous amount of chicken floss and is filled with even more cheese spread and floss while my pick, Cream Cheese & Bacon, is topped with cream cheese, parsley and puff pastry pieces, and filled with sour cream and a lot of bacon bits. We had seven flavors available that day—only Strawberry Yogurt (frosting on top with strawberry yogurt filling) was missing.
My first real task was to fold boxes. Bronuts offers two sizes—boxes of six and boxes of three. They launched the latter just in time for the holidays. “People want to give Bronuts away as Christmas gifts and this is a good size,” I was told. Each bronut is sold for P110, a box of three for P330 and a box of six for P600.
I soon graduated from folding boxes to offering free samples. Yumi or Catherine would slice bite-sized pieces of Bronuts while Raquel and I held up wooden trays, offering them to potential customers. Before grabbing the small tray of samples, I quizzed myself one last time, pointing to each flavor and reciting the topping and filling to myself. Seconds later, I was thankful that I did that because I spent the next hour or so answering the same questions over and over again. “What’s this one?” “What’s inside?” “What’s on top?” I am proud to say that I did not make a single mistake. Other customers had more basic questions: “Why Bronuts?” “What’s a cronut?”
Being a free sample girl was enlightening. I found it funny how different people reacted to my tray of samples in different ways. Some seemed shy, averting their eyes when they were offered the samples while others smiled and politely refused. Some people ignored me completely, even if I was just inches from them. But most people were excited to try the samples, asking about the different flavors. It didn’t matter if they ended up buying Bronuts or not (although most of them did)—these people were my favorite. I loved seeing their faces light up at the first bite, too—their eyes widen and they inevitably end up calling their friends or family for a taste or to help them choose which flavors to buy. One grandpa went up to me wielding a metal fork, spearing one of the samples before putting it in his mouth. I still have no idea where he got his fork.
There was a sense of triumph in seeing someone who just tried a sample line up to buy Bronuts. I felt like pumping my fist in the air each time it happened—and it happened a lot of times.
To people including myself who feel awkward about walking away after a free taste—stop worrying about it. I did not judge a single person who didn’t buy a Bronut. I just moved on to the next potential customer.
While I was getting ready to do another round of free samples, one of my Bronuts bosses arrived. He’s the partner in charge of production—they call him “The Iron Baker.” He did not greet me with a handshake, – nope, that’s not the Bronuts way. We fist-bumped instead.
The Iron Baker told me about how a friend, now a Bronuts partner, challenged him to create his own version of the cronut. A third-generation baker who studied at the American Institute of Baking in Kansas, he spent two months perfecting his recipe—just the base, no flavors yet. “The secret is patience, temperature and perfect timing. It’s not as simple as making bread,” he said.
Coming up with their inventive flavors was the fun part, he said. “Bronuts is a brotherhood, it’s like a fraternity so it’s fun, minsan may kalokohan.” They wanted their Bronuts to be big. “Bro-sized,” he said, “With generous toppings and generous fillings.”
They held blind tests among themselves and invited friends to try their creations, asking them how much they would pay for each one. They signed up for Power Plant Mall’s Baker’s Dozen and were both surprised and happy to see people lining up for their creations. The bros all have day jobs, he said, so for now, they can only sell Bronuts on weekends.
There are a lot of plans for the brand though, starting with a new location for the month of December—SM Aura—and more appearances at bazaars and events (Bronuts were spotted at the Inglot launch a couple of weeks ago and at Zonta Alabang Christmas Carnivale Bazaar recently). New flavors and other exciting collaborations are also going to be launched soon.
“We really just want to make people happy,” he said.
Then it was my turn to make people happy. It was time to sell Bronuts. I put my hair up in a bun, rolled up my sleeves, put on a pair of gloves and grabbed a spot beside Pao who was taking orders, manning the cashier and making sure five pesos from each piece sold went into the donation box.
My plan was to refill the display before finally packing orders, but when one has customers waiting, one stops making plans and just does what he has to do. And in this case, that meant packing Bronuts as people ordered them while trying to refill the display during the lulls between orders.
But there were no lulls. People were lined up and they were all eager to get their hands on Bronuts. There were regular and new customers and Pylones shoppers who had come to claim their free Bronuts (every P1, 000 purchase at Pylones gets you a free Bronut—one woman claimed 27 Bronuts that day). “Four boxes of six, assorted flavors.” “Two boxes of three, two boxes of six.” “One Belgian Chocolate, one Cream Cheese & Bacon.” “Six Blueberries & Cream.” “One PMS, one Belgian Choco.” The orders came one after the other and I could do nothing but grab Bronut after Bronut from the shelves so I could pack them.
Bronuts’ cronuts were so big and my hands were kind of small so at first, I had a hard time holding them. I was so scared I’d drop them. I soon got the hang of it though and started refilling shelves and boxing orders like a pro. I love that the pastries are so big that I sometimes have to work on making sure they fit into the boxes. That means customers are getting a real bang for their buck.
Here’s how I knew we were really busy—my bun had loosened but I couldn’t even pause to retie my hair because the customers kept coming. As long as my hair was still away from my face—and the food—I just kept boxing Bronuts. I changed gloves a couple of times because they had gotten really sticky and even that I had to do very fast because the next customer was already placing an order. It’s a little like those games—Hot Dog Bush, Diner Dash and Burger Island—only a lot stickier.
Bronuts started disappearing from the shelves. Soon, we had run out of Super Floss. The guy who got the last Super Floss rejoiced and we laughed. But the next guy walked up with his girlfriend and I felt bad about them that their favorite flavor was gone. “Come back before dinner, we’ll have more!” we told them as they walked away.
Hijo de Leche disappeared next. We were down to five flavors so we started rearranging the display. More customers kept coming. I kept glancing at our stocks, worried we’d completely run out of Bronuts before the third delivery.
But the crates of fresh Bronuts arrived right on time and we got busy rearranging the display again while filling orders.
I was very busy but I was also having a lot of fun. Some customers were chatty, asking if PMS was Bronuts’ version of red velvet (no it’s not), asking why PMS was named PMS (“Because you crave sweet and salty food when you PMS,” was my answer), asking where the other branches are and telling us who they’re buying the Bronuts for. There were indecisive customers who didn’t know which flavors they wanted to add to their boxes, asking us to decide for them. They’d laugh while Pao and I argued, defending the merits of Cream Cheese & Bacon versus her favorite Hijo De Leche. I loved it too when people used their mobile phones to call their loved ones to ask which flavors they wanted. Bronuts do make a great pasalubong.
I had so much fun that I ended up working for seven hours, forgetting to eat and to even take a bathroom break.
The people behind Bronuts taught me a lot about customer service. I was impressed by their teamwork—how they’d step in at just the right moment to make sure things flowed smoothly when someone else became overwhelmed. They really do everything to make their customers happy—increasing production and making sure deliveries come on time so people won’t be disappointed; connecting with their fans on social media and running fun contests on Facebook; slicing an entire box of cronuts into tiny little bites at the request of a customer even if it can mean accidentally cutting your finger (It happened to Louie and he was nonchalant about it. He just took a break to make sure the bleeding stopped). And it was contagious. I wanted to do everything to make the customers happy too.
Like all the other weekends, Bronuts sold every single Bronut they had produced that day. Parents with kids, couples, teenagers, grandmas buying for their grandkids, husbands buying for their wives, daughters buying for their moms—we served them all that Saturday. I left Power Plant Mall sticky, hungry and exhausted but I was also satisfied.
Bronuts will be at SM Aura all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of December (near National Book Store); Port 88 Bazaar in Megatent Events Venue, E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, Quezon City on December 7-8; Kicks to Go in Ronac Art Center, Greenhills, San Juan on December 8. To place bulk orders for events, parties and giveaways, e-mail [email protected] or send a message through their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bronutsph). Follow @bronutsph on Twitter and Instagram.