We watched way too many episodes of Steven Universe to figure out exactly how the show’s iconic Big Donut manages to stay in business.
Steven Universe loves Big Donut.
One of the running jokes within the show is that Steven goes to Big Donut — seemingly Beach City’s only doughnut shop — almost every single day.
But another running joke about Beach City is that pretty much nobody lives there. And every time we see Steven inside Big Donut, he’s pretty much the only person there.
So how is it possible that Big Donut is even still in business?
We were curious, so we set out to determine exactly how much profit the Big Donut pulls in every year.
As it turns out, it’s close to $50,000.
That’s being generous, in a lot of cases — it’s assuming a lot about Beach City’s population beyond the dozen or so characters that are ever introduced on the show, and it doesn’t account for a lot of costs — but it goes a long way toward showing how the Big Donut manages to keep its lights on outside of Steven’s daily purchases.
Follow along with us as we make a massive amount of assumptions about the realistic working of a doughnut shop from a cartoon show wherein sentient gemstones with bodies made of light beat the hell out of monsters and also cry a lot.
The menu for the Big Donut is, shall we say, a little haphazard.
The following is a shot from the episode “Shirt Club,” when Mayor Dewey’s son Buck glances up to look at the Big Donut’s menu (only to ignore it and order a salad).
One donut is $0.99. A “combo” of two donuts is $3.39. Meanwhile, the “Triple!!” — which appears to be three donuts — costs $2.49.
We should reiterate here that this is a cartoon show aimed at children, and it’s definitely not fair to hold a 3 second shot of a restaurant menu up to any level of scrutiny.
Regardless, we’re going to do that.
Let’s assume that, on average, most customers buy about a half dozen doughnuts per store visit. With the most popular items being the low-priced “Triple!!” and the full dozen (based on most orders and deliveries we can see being made during episodes), this is a likely option.
What’s more, most characters (Steven included) who order from the Big Donut tend to walk away with an entire bag — they probably wouldn’t need this if they only ordered one donut, even though virtually every customer takes their donut orders to go (there’s not a lot of seating in the store, after all).
And let’s also say that half of all customers also order a large black coffee, which based on the menu probably costs $2.29.
But we still need to find out how many customers come to Big Donut, which is tougher than it sounds.
We looked at as many episodes as we could find from all seasons of Steven Universe that featured the Big Donut (roughly 25 of them) in order to figure out the numbers here.
As far as we can tell, Steven comes in to Big Donut every single day, or near enough to every day. That makes one surefire customer per day.
The problem is, Steven seems to be the only person in here on most of these days — there are only a few customers we see milling around the store besides him.
Still, though, Steven sleeps a lot — and, as we’ve mentioned, everyone who orders at the big donut takes their orders to go, which makes sense given that there are only two seats in the entire store, and these tend to be taken up by the employees themselves.
Beach City is a small town with a tiny population. It was based on 3 main cities — Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach, both of which have barely more than 1000 residents, and Dewey Beach, which has closer to 300. So let’s split the difference and say that Beach City only has about 750 permanent residents.
Most small doughnut shops get around 50-60 customers a day, even ones in large cities. Beach City isn’t very big, but Big Donut does stay open much longer than most donut shops do (for reasons we’ll go into below). With 750 permanent residents and plenty of tourists, this might be a little on the high side, but it’s by no means outrageous.
So it’s a reasonable assumption that, even if we don’t see them, the Big Donut averages at least 50 customers a day, particularly since weekends are likely to be much busier than the other days of the week.
That makes 50 customers a day buying an average of 6 donuts a day, with about 25 of them buying a large black coffee to go with it.
That works out to about $307 dollars a day on average, or $9,371 dollars per month on average.
Now let’s do the math. If the Big Donut makes $9,371 per month on average, that makes an annual revenue of $112,452.
Now that we know how much money Big Donut brings in every month, let’s figure out what costs them money.
So, given all that, let’s do our final calculations:
As small businesses go, Big Donut’s not about to take out to take down Krispy Kreme. But $50 grand a year is respectable — it’s more than Bob’s Burgers ever managed, after all.
Of course, it does seem possible that there aren’t enough Beach City residents going in and out of the Big Donut to really justify the “50 customers a day” number.
What’s more, it seems pretty unlikely that every single employee of the shop would be making such an unlivable wage — sure, Lars and Sadie are high schoolers (probably?), but surely there is at least one adult employee working full time for the Big Donut who needs more than 14k a year to live. And it can’t be cheap living in a touristy beachside small town that routinely gets partially destroyed by alien monsters.
But then again, there is a simple solution to all of these discrepancies, which the savvy reader might already have picked up on:
Namely, and for what must be the second or third time, it is a cartoon show for children. And we’re probably dumb for squinting this hard at it.
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