How Many Donuts?

Last week I attended a big gaming convention called Gen Con. Even though Stonemaier Games is a small company (I’m the only full-time employee), we’re able to have a slightly bigger presence at this convention thanks to our volunteers. A part of my job is to make sure these volunteers are happy, and a subset of that is food.

So I arranged for the hotel to provide bagels, donuts, and coffee at exactly 8:30 each morning. That way our volunteers didn’t need to wait in line at Starbucks or walk several blocks to wait in line at Panera. Ideally this would also help them get more sleep.

Here are the factors I considered when calculating the amount of breakfast food required for volunteers (I’ll include myself and my co-founder among “volunteers”):

  • 11 volunteers spent a significant amount of time in the conference room each day (they were my main responsibility)
  • 11 other volunteers either spent a little bit of time in the conference room or a lot of time at the booth each day (while I wanted these volunteers to have a good time, they were more under the scope of the company running the booth)
  • Not everyone eats breakfast, and those who do have a broad range of preferences
  • I don’t like to waste food

Given that information, how many bagels and donuts would you order for breakfast each day in the conference room?

I ask this rather odd and specific question because–all in good fun–the volunteers seemed to get a good laugh out of the precise number of donuts I ordered. However, as it turns out, the most of the donuts were quite large, and we always seemed to have either the exact amount of breakfast food required or a little bit too much.

My answer was 8 bagels and 4 donuts. I figured we’d have around 10 people wanting breakfast each day, and some of them would want various combinations of bagels and donuts.

Based on that data, how many donuts would you have arranged for daily breakfast? And bagels as well, if you wish.

10 thoughts on “How Many Donuts?”

  1. I probably would have brought a dozen donuts and 6 bagels since bagels can easily be cut in half, doubling the amount. And I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to eat only one donut, even if it’s large! 🙂

    • The bagels did indeed come cut in half. People rarely seemed to take a whole donut (they were so big and easy to cut), though that might have been because there were only 4.

  2. I would have gotten a dozen donuts and a dozen bagels. I figure at least 2 donuts per person (because that’s how my kids roll). Now if they were really big donuts, I might have pared down.

    I also would have ordered a dozen scrambled eggs. For me. Me alone. No one else. Oh and bacon. Again, just for me.

  3. You noted that you seemed to have the exact amount of breakfast required…did you actually hear that from the volunteers, or did they just eat all of the breakfast food, making you think you had the exact amount required (when in reality they would have eaten more, had more been available)? Also, I’m curious if they day(s) when you seemed to have a little too much were after day 1? Was there the possibility of bagel/donut fatigue when faced with the same choices over multiple days? The questions abound, man. The considerations!

    I’d probably have gone with a dozen of each. Most likely that would have led to leftovers, but my guess would have been that the leftovers would all be bagels. I’m very surprised 4 donuts was enough–I’m actually curious about 2 things: Did some people not get donuts who would have otherwise eaten one (once the 4 donuts were gone)? Do you think people adjusted their eating based on availability? For instance, if I were part of a volunteer group I cared about, and I approached a breakfast try holding 6 bagels and one donut, I’d want to eat the donut, but I’d hesitate to do so because I’d feel like I’d be depriving my fellow volunteers of the donut. Alternatively, I might be inclined to cut a piece off of the donut if only one (or two) were left. Under plentiful circumstances, I’d probably just eat two donuts unless you had a very enticing cream cheese variety available, in which case I’d go for one bagel and then evaluate whether I was in the mood for the donut afterwards. Also, as one of the volunteers, I’d quickly evaluate whether the bagels and donuts were provided by the hotel vs if the hotel ordered them from Panera or somewhere similar. I’ve never had a good hotel bagel, but I consider hotel donuts passable–I’d probably avoid the bagels all together if they were hotel bagels and little round cream cheese cups.

    I’d be curious if you did a follow up survey of your volunteers (perhaps you did this informally). Something like:
    1) Would you have eaten more bagels and donuts if more had been available?
    2) Does it matter where these items came from (hotel brand vs panera or similar)?
    3) If you were one of the people facing the proposition of eating one of the last bagels or donuts, did that change how much you ate?
    4) If I did this again next year, how many bagels would you eat per day? How many donuts?
    5) In an ideal world, is there anything you’d prefer to bagels and donuts

    • Those are good questions. I didn’t ask them about that, though I did observe the number of people who showed up for breakfast, and I would say it was around 8 people each day.

      It’s quite possible that people adjusted their eating habits based on the available food. They were pretty good bagels and donuts. I think maybe I underestimated people’s willingness and desire to eat a donut for breakfast.

      I did a follow-up survey, but I asked for general feedback (there was lots of stuff going on, so I didn’t focus specifically on donuts).

      • Of course, in the grand scheme of things, all of this is only so important compared with other business priorities! I was mostly going over the top about the importance of donuts 🙂

  4. I’d have ordered a combination of 36 bagels/donuts, so it seems I’d have had extras. However, based on 22 people and knowing that I’d eat more than one donut and if available, have a bagel later as a snack (I like food), I’d assume other folks would maybe do that also. I’d also rather have extra versus not enough.

  5. As one of the volunteers, I’ll give some feedback…

    If donuts are available, I’m generally a 2 donut guy. I’m also not a morning person, so I showed up near the end of the breakfast hour. I wasn’t there for breakfast on Friday, but was there Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

    I never got a donut. I either got a half or whole bagel each day, and there was always very little left. If there were enough I likely would have eaten a donut or bagel in the afternoon as well.

    However… I already wrote Jamey a long retrospective covering a wide variety of things to Start/Stop/Continue doing for next year. Breakfast didn’t even register as something to leave feedback on. If I was actually hungry I could have easily picked up something at a number of different vendors (including one that was very close to the room), and I never did. If it were me, I would have ordered more, but we didn’t need more.

  6. This seems to me like a time to ensure a surplus of food. I’m sure your volunteers were thankful for any food at all, and of course whatever deal you gave for free/reduced tickets to the con, but I would want to do everything I can to maximize the enthusiasm and energy of the people who would be representing my company that day. Even the potential for a shortage of food and a potentially (even subconsciously) slighted volunteer sounds more costly than the expense of extra food. You can always correct an extreme surplus the next day.

    Regarding food waste – I’m sure you could find some strangers in a neighboring room who’d appreciate any leftovers!

    Always a fan of your posts, Jamey!


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