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While the debate about how the hole ended up at the center of a donut remains largely unresolved, there is a sound general consensus around the overwhelming popularity of the halo-shaped treat.
It’s a love affair that shows no sign of easing. In fact, the global donut market is expected to grow to US$20 billion by 2028.
“I had the upper hand and dared myself to blend knowledge and passion.”
Cora L Andoy has long had her eye on the sugar-tinged world of donuts. During her college days, when she worked for a number of fast-food chains, she yearned to work for Dunkin’.
Her big break came when she was offered the chance to join Golden Donuts, operating as Dunkin’ across the Philippines, by a friend who had seen the passion and dedication that she poured into her role at a small production house.
“I said, ‘I’ll give a try’. So I did,” she says with a laugh.
Although initially faced with what she describes as the culture shock of working in a big business, Andoy persevered, exploring all areas of the company and climbing the ranks in the process.
Her loyalty and commitment to the company earned her the opportunity to attend the legendary Dunkin’ Donuts University in Massachusetts, United States, where she learned every fact of the donut world.
“I learned how to make the donuts. It was a very memorable experience for me, learning how to make donuts and run the operations,” she recalls. “At that point, I only knew I had the upper hand and dared myself to blend knowledge and passion.”
Although Andoy’s initial plan was to stay just five years, after more than 25 years, she’s still there, having helped turn the entire operation around.
“We weren’t really in a very good position at the time. We were struggling just like any other brand for a number of years,” she remembers. “The food industry is quite receptive to take up challenges – adding to that is the fact that competition has become tougher with new brands coming in.”
Aside from Mister Donut, a new player called Go Nuts Donuts entered the market, stirring things up. However, as a team, Golden Donuts successfully navigated this increasingly complex landscape. And in 2018, Andoy was offered the role of COO, which she accepted after much deliberation.
The biggest challenge of Andoy’s career lay before her, though. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, it threw all of the company’s plans up in the air as lockdown restrictions were put in place.
“No-one knew what was going to happen,” she admits.
After a conversation with the company’s Chair, the pair decided the business had to reopen. But with fear around this mysterious disease rife, it was down to the two of them to lead the charge.
“I told our Chair, ‘We will reopen the stores’,” she says. “Then I told the team, ‘We all have to accept that this thing is not going to end very soon. Our lives will change if we decide to shelter ourselves with fear. There is nothing else we can do but to open our stores and see how the consumer responds.’
“It ended up with a few of the team, our Chair and I, just needing to lead and build the confidence of our team.”
After displaying such strong leadership, Andoy was offered the position of company President in March 2021. But it was an honor she did not accept until the following June, after once again giving the matter much consideration.
“I knew that it would take a lot of work when I accepted the role. It was not an overnight decision, honestly. I just realized that there was a deeper reason behind the pathway, and that is: I know if I work well, I have the ability to turn things around and improve the lives of my fellow co-workers,” she reveals.
“What we all have is just temporary, so I want to be remembered not just as a leader, but a person who taught them the value of integrity, the value of mentoring and passing the baton to the future leaders of the company.”
“We all know that we just have to work closely together in order to sustain and continue dominating the industry.”
That’s not Andoy’s sole ambition. She is determined that, even in the face of mounting competition, Dunkin’ won’t relinquish its position as the number one donut in the industry.
“We were able to sustain the brand’s presence for the past 42 years. We have overcome a lot of hurdles including strong competition and changes in the Philippines market,” she points out.
“We all know that we just have to work closely together in order to sustain and continue dominating the industry. The good news is that my team’s mindset is that we are just getting started.”
The company’s key advantage is the way it lifts up its people, according to Andoy.
“Empowering your people also means allowing them to gain confidence in making tough decisions. We never point fingers at anyone or criticize those who make mistakes,” she explains.
“Our practice is for our team to take full responsibility for their tasks. In doing so, they don’t just go to the office to do their regular work – they go there every day inclined to make things right.
“As I always tell them, ‘You will never go wrong by doing what is moral, what is fair and what is just’.”
It’s not just Golden Donuts’ own people who are happy to be a part of its journey. Many of the suppliers that commenced the journey with the company are still there, working side by side. The longevity of these relationships comes down to transparency, Andoy reflects.
“Every time there’s a problem with our raw materials or supplies, we ensure that we have an open communication with them. We also support them in any way that we can, without compromising our food safety standards,” she explains.
“Empowering your people also means allowing them to gain confidence in making tough decisions.”
This was especially true during the pandemic when these partnerships truly proved their worth, with Golden Donuts and its suppliers working closely together to ensure the optimal result for all concerned, with an ongoing emphasis on transparency.
“Part of what we have all accomplished is that we work not just with our strong passion to surpass goals, we also set our standards and put a strong emphasis on integrity,” she confirms. “From the lowest to the highest position of our organization, this must be carried out.”
Clarity around the quality Golden Donuts expects from its partners and suppliers is also crucial, enabling it to continue delivering an excellent experience to its customers through its Dunkin’ stores. But Andoy is quick to point out that it’s a two-way street.
“Our suppliers play a major part in our success. They know how to handle our timely demands, but since our orientation has always been fast-paced, there will be gaps or loopholes that they cannot perfect,” she says.
“We understand this. That’s why it is very important to work with someone who has the capability and the credibility. For the longest time, they have been there and we value this. We are proud of our partners in making things available on time, with transparency.”
These relationships are more crucial than ever in a climate where prices are spiraling worldwide – a state of affairs Andoy calls “very challenging”, particularly as Golden Donuts strives to become more responsible.
“We’re very steadfast with our objective in waste management disposal. Our environment has been dwelling on this quandary and it gets worse overtime. Our company follows strict protocols, not just in waste management but also our campaign in using biodegradable materials for our packaging across the country,” she adds.
The company sources many of its supplies from countries like Finland, which produce the compostable packaging that Golden Donuts uses for the Dunkin’ boxes. It also prioritizes the use of paper over plastic, particularly in Metro Manila.
“Not because it’s a requirement, but because we want to be responsible,” Andoy explains.
Globally, Dunkin’ has reinforced its commitment to coffee sustainability by donating to a number of organizations around the world that help to make a meaningful difference to the lives of coffee farmers and producers. These include the Sustainable Coffee Challenge and One Tree Planted, among others.
“We have accomplished a lot of great things to ensure that we grow stronger, together!”
It’s one of a number of sources of pride for Andoy, but she believes her foremost achievement is her team, which has helped the company to soar in the post-pandemic era.
“This is one of the best teams that we have had in my stint with Dunkin’,” she says. “We have accomplished a lot of great things to ensure that we grow stronger, together!”