Orange County

Santa Ana Bakery: Free Pastries for Your Point of View

An enterprising baker wants feedback -- and he's giving grub away, gratis, to get it.

Whatever career you dreamed of going into as a kid, your parents and teachers and mentors likely all shared one wise chestnut of advice: "Grow some thick skin."

Feedback is crucial in practically any enterprise, as a person launching a new restaurant well knows. Your reviews can come later, on the web's busiest review sites, and be spectacular (or spectacularly bad). Or you can immediately see what customers think of what you're selling, via an unfinished meal left unceremoniously on a table.

Orange County baker (and inspiration to those people in search of thicker skin) Jason Quinn wanted to go straight to the heart of how his doughnuts and pastries were pleasing people at the Dough Exchange, the downtown Santa Ana sweeterie that Mr. Quinn opened in the fall.

This was in part because people were passing his pastry shop by (it's next to The Playground, Mr. Quinn's bustling gastropub). So he landed on a concept that's got the ear and eye of not only customers but the likes of the OC Register and prospective fans well beyond the borders of the county: Give away free treats while seeking feedback on those treats ASAP, as in the customer fills out a card there, on the spot, to share what they think of what you make.

Number of goodies you get for giving your opinion? Two. And, of course, you can leave some cash, if you wish (pay-what-you-wish restaurant concepts are nothing new, though rarely seen).

Mr. Quinn's impressive gumption and thickness-of-skin has already been on display in other ways: When one TV show posted about the bakery's Pizza Doughnut in the fall, the Dough Exchange's Facebook post revealed that the "best negative comment gets a permanent spot on our chalkboard wall."

And on an Instagram photo depicting the bakery's commitment to Research + Development are these cheeky hashtags: #hatersgonnahate and #bakersgonnabake.

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It's the very approach your mother would have told you to take while approaching a new enterprise: Fearlessness, a bit of fun and a willing to share your product with the public in order to obtain some product-perfecting feedback.

Could the Dough Exchange have struck the new model in our modern #hatersgonnahate -- #butthatsok -- business world? Ponder that, trend watchers, while you chew on the pay-nothing piece of doughnut. 

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