Candida Rodriguez stirs strawberry glaze, as she prepares to frost donuts at Rantoul Distributors. The Peabody business makes all the doughnuts for Dunkin’ Donuts. | Photo: Mark Lorenz.
By STACEY MARCUS
For or Joe Tavares, it’s time to make the doughnuts.
The plant manager of Rantoul Distributors in Peabody’s Centennial Park hands me a hairnet as my tummy starts rumbling. I simply must resist sticking my hand in a vat of yummy chocolate frosting.
Tavares leads me into the 23,000-square-foot facility, one of 97 central bakeries in the United States for Dunkin’ Donuts, and the aroma might make resistance impossible.
“We sell more doughnuts than anyone else in the Northeast,” said Tavares with pride.
Rantoul Distributors’ central bakery provides goods for 140 Dunkin’ stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. Tavares says the plant operates seven days a week, 23 hours per day in three shifts. The bounty is seven thousand dozen doughnuts and more than 8 million Munchkins a day.
Tavares, who has been on board since the bakery opened in 2005, said much of the doughnut making is auto-mated, except for such finishes as glazing, frosting and sprinkles, which are done by hand. The company has 90 employees.
“I love to work. I love to challenge myself and make things better,” said Tavares, noting that his favorite is the honey-dipped, the company’s best-selling doughnut.
“When we began, we were a local operation with 10 franchisees operating roughly 50 stores,” said Bill Panzini, who sits on the board of directors of Rantoul Distributors with fellow franchise owners Dinart Serpa of Beverly, Bob Jackson of Salem and Deo Raga of Gloucester.
“We took our name from Rantoul Street in Beverly, our original intended site for the central bakery. However, we saw an opportunity for a pre-existing space on Centennial Drive that could be converted … so, as opposed to having to build from the ground up, we switched over to that space,” said Panzini, a North Reading resident. He and Serpa, who have nearly 50 years of combined experience at Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, direct the operations and management teams.
Rantoul Distributors’ transformation came in the form of automation, said Panzini.
“We saw an opportunity to expand the line, which would result in more efficient operations. We decided to shift the production of doughnuts and Munchkins to the central bakeries and focus on baking the bagels, muffins and other items in stores. By doing so, we were able to continue in the same vein and ensure that our products were of consistent quality,” Panzini said.
The company expanded a couple of years ago, adding 6,700 square feet. A nearby central bakery that provided treats to some 40 area stores was absorbed by Panzini and team, bringing everything in-house under one roof, increasing efficiency and production in the area.
Panzini and the other franchise owners enjoy the efficiency and camaraderie the central bakery offers.
“Having the opportunity to work with other Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees that face the same challenges gave us the opportunity to cultivate real friendships with one another. It is a great thing to work with people for whom you hold the highest regard,” Panzini said.