Yum Yum Donuts may be based solely in the state of California, but their donuts are so renowned for their delicious, old-fashioned appeal that this chain has garnered national recognition. If you live in California, you’re probably well acquainted with Yum Yum. If you don’t, you’ve either made a point of tracking one down on a California visit, or maybe you plan to in the future. On the off-chance you’re just learning about Yum Yum Donuts now, we have a feeling you’ll soon be adding it to your list of places to check out.
Even a passing familiarity means you’re probably acquainted with its retro vibes — the locations all somehow look like they’d be right in place in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s — and their huge, expansive menu where you can get everything from classics like raspberry jelly-jammed donuts to newer inventions like an Orange Iced Cake Donut (via the official website). But, did you know about this chain’s history, or its connections to other iconic treats? Here’s all there is to know.
Yum Yum Donuts is one of the largest privately owned donut chains in the U.S.
According to ScrapeHero, as of July 2021, there are 94 Yum Yum Donuts locations. On the other hand, Dunkin’ Donuts has 8,500 locations in the U.S. (with an additional 3,200 locations internationally), reported on their website. And Krispy Kreme has 362 U.S. stores (per ScrapeHero). Clearly, Dunkin’ crushes the competition, however the chain is owned by Inspire Brands (per Bloomberg) and Krispy Kreme is owned by JAB Holdings (per Business Insider). Meanwhile, Yum Yum is owned and operated by a single entity, Lincoln Watase. Yum Yum founder Phil Holland sold his operation to Lincoln’s father Frank in 1989, reports the Los Angeles Times.
In terms of the number of locations, Duck Donuts is in Yum Yum’s ballpark, but is owned by NewSpring Capital, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. There’s also the small but mighty Shipley Do-Nuts, owned by Peak Rock Capital (per Houstonia Magazine). Yum Yum is one of the few still privately owned by a family and not an investment firm.
Yum Yum’s menu is massive
While Yum Yum Donuts is indeed a chain, its smaller status and old-fashioned atmosphere keep it decidedly far removed from the mega-corporate vibes of, say, Dunkin’ Donuts. Walking into a Yum Yum still feels like walking into a neighborhood mom-and-pop shop. But one thing that is definitely different is the sheer size of the Yum Yum menu. A local donut shop might have anywhere from a handful to a dozen different varieties to choose from, but Yum Yum’s menu is massive.
There are tons of options in both cake and yeast donut variety, so fans of either style will be happy here. Cake donuts are, of course, cakey, while yeast donuts are the fluffy, chewy kind you probably think of when you think of classic donut rings. The Yum Yum menu also offers fritters, maple bars, bear claws, twists, and other assorted members of the donut family. And all of these iterations come iced, frosted, sprinkled, filled, or otherwise topped (per Yum Yum Donuts).
And that’s before you get to their non-donut options. While the chain could rest on its donut laurels, it also offers a whole separate menu of baked goods like muffins and croissants as well as sandwiches, not to mention the dizzying range of beverages to choose from. Suffice to say, most people will find something they love here.
Yum Yum Donuts has connections to other beloved American treats
Phil Holland opened the first Yum Yum Donuts location in 1971, in Highland Park, California (per the official website). The building Holland set up shop at was actually a former Orange Julius location. While an Orange Julius is a citrusy, dessert-like drink made using orange juice, ice, milk, and vanilla (via The Kitchn), it’s perhaps even better known as a beloved American chain that made this beverage a hit. That chain was founded in 1926, according to its website, and became especially famous as a mall treat. In 1987, it was bought by Dairy Queen so now can get your Orange Juliuses with your Blizzards.
But that’s not Yum Yum’s only connection to another classic American indulgence. The whole reason that Phil Holland even opened that first shop was because he’d become interested in the donut business after spending time in North Carolina and working with Vernon Rudolph. Rudolph just so happens to be the founder of Krispy Kreme, according to the chain’s website. Krispy Kreme debuted in 1937, so it already had decades of being an American favorite by the time Holland became interested in the idea, which no doubt inspired him to go West and forge his own donut destiny in the ’70s.
Yum Yum Donuts bought its one-time competition
That’s exactly the course Yum Yum took with Winchell’s Donuts. The latter was founded by Verne Winchell in 1948, also in California, according to the Los Angeles Times. By the 1970s, it was a classic in the Golden State, but of course that’s also when Yum Yum entered the scene. Both chains co-existed for decades, but, presumably, both vied for West Coast donut lovers’ undivided attention.
Winchell’s grew to have hundreds of locations in different states and even countries, but during the 1980s, a long series of sales and acquisitions signaled the chain’s decline. Startup Sapience documents that different companies took over Winchell’s and tried different ideas like frozen donuts or "Winchell’s Express" counters, and, when nothing seemed to significantly boost revenue, they would end up selling the chain again.
In 2004, Yum Yum Donuts stepped up to the plate and bought its former competition. Winchell’s was down to 200 locations by this point, and Yum Yum continued to shut down under-performing locations. There hasn’t been a whole lot of change or growth for Winchell’s ever since — one might assume Yum Yum prioritizes, well, Yum Yum stores — but there are still 170 Winchell’s locations, says Startup Sapience. So, Yum Yum hasn’t neglected Winchell’s all together. If anything, this may be an example of a "better together" type of donut power couple.
Yum Yum has had its name roasted by a famous comedian
Stand-up comedian, writer, and actor Jim Gaffigan launched his star status on his refreshing relatability and a sort of "everyone’s dad" energy, and a lot of that often involves talking about food. Gaffigan knows his stuff when it comes to food, too. He’s had an entire television series shaped around it called "Pale Tourist," and he’s written books about it, too. Some of Gaffigan’s most beloved, oft-quoted comedy bits have been hilarious riffs on food observations, like his timeless Hot Pockets joke.
As it turns out, Yum Yum Donuts is iconic enough to have made its way into the Jim Gaffigan food comedy repertoire. The comic actually created a YouTube compilation of his material on donuts from different bits. For Yum Yum, he quips, "What do you need, the I.Q. of 1 to find that … Yum Yum? ‘Me like Yum Yum’ … Who’s the target audience, cavemen? ‘I know two things: Yellow fireball rise in sky, and Yum Yum Donuts.’" Gaffigan also discusses Yum Yum’s seemingly simplistic name in his book, "Food: A Love Story," too.
Of course, the jokes come from love, and only signal that Yum Yum has really "made it" if it’s in that prominent of a comedy routine. It does make you think, though — the name is a little silly, but at the end of the day, if they are in fact "yummy" donuts, who cares?