Local Heroes

‍“I Just Bought A Doughnut Shop, Honey," Life Lessons from Primo's Donuts

July 14, 2021

Driving, doughnuts, and the American Dream

Sixty-five years ago, Ralph Primo Jr.’s parents took him and his brother on a drive around LA on a quest to find a new house. The family quickly found a home they loved but lost it in a bidding war. After a long day of house hunting, they passed a doughnut shop, and after some begging from her sons, Ralph Primo Jr’s mother, Celia Primo, surrendered and told her husband to buy the boys some doughnuts. Just fifteen minutes later, Ralph Primo came back to the car and said, “I just bought a doughnut shop, honey.”  

Alas, the beloved Primo’s Donuts was born. Now a three-generation family business, Primo’s Donuts is run by Ralph Primo Jr. and his son, who recently ditched his career in tech to help his father during the pandemic. Rated “Favorite Doughnuts in California” by Food Insider, the award-winning shop, famous for its buttermilk bars, is still motivated by the community. “For my father, it was always about quality,” Ralph Primo Jr. explains, “and the highest respect for the customers. We get involved in little leagues, synagogues, churches… anything in the community. Being in the business for so long, it’s not unusual to have a grandfather bring in a grandkid and tell us his own grandfather used to bring him there. Making people happy is the best part of the job.”

Preserving doughnut history with a new purchase

Decades later, Primo’s Donuts is set to open a  second location next month—and in classic Primo- fashion, there’s once again a great story there. After learning that “friendly competitor” Stan’s Donuts was closing due to the pandemic, the Primo family decided to sign the Westwood lease to keep the local flair alive. The touching transaction received media buzz, but the decision wasn’t a PR stunt; it was personal: “We felt bad that another iconic mom and pop doughnut was going out of business, so we took over the lease. We’re excited the Westwood  community can continue to get freshly made doughnuts from a local shop.”

When asked about the decision to expand, Ralph Primo Jr. says passion is the most crucial ingredient for success, “Of course, it’s difficult once you start expanding. But my father always said you have to have a passion for what you do and love whatever you’re making. And the best reward is making people happy. No one’s ever mad in a doughnut shop.”

Doughnuts are essential in challenging times

To think Primo’s Donuts is opening a second location—and planning on a third— after the pandemic is a testament to their loyal locals. “Who knew doughnuts were essential? That a doughnut shop was an essential business?” Ralph Primo Jr jokes. “But no, really, I used to thank the customers that were coming in and ordering doughnuts for take-out at the beginning of the pandemic, and they would say ‘no thank you. We appreciate you being there for us. It was a two-way street.”

Still, during the closures, Primo’s—like thousands of other restaurants— had to switch its focus on managing delivery efforts in order to maintain revenue income.

“We had a lot of office business and other revenue streams that dried up completely, but what beautifully happened is that delivery platforms took over,” Ralph Primo Jr. recalls. “Before COVID-19, we were only on one platform, and then we kept adding the apps until we were at four or five. But then it became impossible. My staff was running around crazy with four different tablets.”

Increasing efficiency with Otter

After looking for a solution, Primo’s team stumbled across Otter and hasn’t looked back.

“It’s been a life-changing experience for my staff. The consolidation of having one tablet is a blessing, and the analytics tracking is just fantastic. We plan on using it in all our shops and recommend it for anyone looking for an easier way to increase income through delivery.”

The Otter team knows doughnuts are essential. That’s why we’re happy to have helped increase the number of doughnuts delivered to people’s doorsteps.

You can support Primo’s Donuts by visiting their store in Los Angeles on Sawtelle, Available for delivery on Doordash, Grubhub, Postmates and Uber Eats. Otter’s favorite? The beloved Buttermilk Bar: an old-fashioned style donut that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with a thick buttermilk center.

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