Three different donut concepts — all newcomers to the Kansas City scene — are battling it out for the city’s favorite donut. Duck Donuts, Hurts Donut Co. and The Dapper Doughnut exemplify the present and future of the retail donut business, which continues to capture the imagination of America.

The fast-growing Duck Donuts franchise opened its first store in Kansas earlier this year in Leawood, featuring its widely popular made-to-order donuts and a new store format designed to visually enhance the customer experience. Owned by Katie and Ryan McNeil, the store is located at the Ranch Mart Shopping Center in Leawood, an affluent suburb of Kansas City.

“It’s a great concept that we fell in love with immediately,” says Ryan McNeil, who discovered Duck Donuts with his wife while visiting family in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It’s a fresh, warm, made-to-order donut, and it’s something we found with our family, our kids, everybody was so excited about because there is nothing really like it, especially in Kansas City right now.”

Kristin Kellum, public relations manager for Duck Donuts, says key design features of the new store format include a customer facing topping table, open ceiling plan with colorful lighting fixtures and fans, counters accented with cedar shake, and an updated coffee bar featuring a reclaimed oak wood accent wall. The chain has grown to 68 franchise locations with 130 additional contracts in 23 states.

In 2013, Duck Donuts opened its first franchise store in Williamsburg, Virginia, the same year that Hurts Donut Co. opened its first store in Springfield, Missouri.

Hurts Donut Co., based in Springfield, calls itself “the rebel of all donuts” and boasts 19 locations, including its newest in Kansas City at the Ward Parkway Center. Examples of its extreme flavors (there are more than 70 on the menu) include Oreo Cheesecake and the Cosmic Brownie.

Inspired by National Pickle Day on Nov. 14, Hurts Donut developed the Pickle Donut, a yeast donut that is stuffed with a pickle cheesecake filling, dipped in vanilla icing, sprinkled with dried dill, and then topped with pickle juice cubes. Hurts Donut co-owner Tim Clegg recalls the early trials and errors of offering any crazy topping — potato chips, Cheetos, all types of sugar cereals — they may imagine. “At first, it didn’t matter what we put on a donut. It sold.” Top sellers now include maple bacon bars, cotton candy donuts, and any assorted toppings ranging from breakfast cereal to Nutella.

The most recent newcomer to the Kansas City area is The Dapper Doughnut, a Las Vegas-based operator established in 2016. Dapper Doughnut held its grand opening in September at its newest store in the Legends Outlets in Kansas City, Kansas.As a teenager, franchise and food and beverage veteran Jeff Pappas grew up going to Schultz’s farm in Armonk, New York, to grab a hot, fresh donut every weekend. Fast forward to 2015 when he decided to franchise such a business by seeking a successful (fresh made to order) donut company. He joined forces with Jimmy Nuccio and Gabriel Wiesen of Chicago’s award-winning Beavers Coffee & Donuts to develop a new foodservice concept revolving around mini donuts with a wide variety of toppings. The Dapper Doughnut was born. Today, there are nearly 30 retail stores across the country.