Dunkin' Donuts Has A Severe Case Of Starbucks Envy

First McDonald’s started testing the McCafe, essentially a Starbucks within McDonalds, now plain old Dunkin’ Donuts has caught Starbucks envy.

From Time:

If it weren’t for the pink door handle shaped like the letter D at the new Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Sarasota, Fla., you might think you had stumbled into a Starbucks. Bags of beans and oversize coffee mugs near the door? Check. A waiting area for lattes and cappuccinos? Check. Heck, there’s even free wi-fi and a rack of gift cards by the register.

This is the Dunkin’ Donuts of the future, a chic space with soaring ceilings and earth-toned walls that will be the prototype for every new store the 57-year-old chain opens. “We’re not a sleepy little New England company anymore,” says Dunkin’ Brands CEO Jon Luther, 63. Sure, they’ll still have time to make the doughnuts for your morning commute, but Luther thinks the slightly musty chain is ready to take on the industry giants–Starbucks and McDonald’s–on their turf. He started small, rolling out espresso drinks in 2003; they now account for 5% of sales. Next he plans to triple the number of U.S. stores, to 15,000, by 2020; expand the menu with pizza and flatbread sandwiches; and give the stores a much-needed makeover.

Pizza? Time to make the flatbread sandwiches?

Where’s Denis Leary when you need him? “You took the donut, you dunked it in the coffee, thus the #%@$% title of the place.”—MEGHANN MARCO

Brand New Buzz [Time]
(Photo: Qfamily)

Comments

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  1. Lewis says:

    People like DD because it’s the anti-SBUX.

    Failure to recognize that will lead to unintended consequences.

  2. shiftless says:

    DD coffee tastes way better than Starbucks

  3. kerry says:

    @LewisNYC: This may be true for a lot of people, but since I knew DD long before there was Starbucks, it’s just a more ingrained choice. Also, I think Starbucks coffee tastes like tar. Assy tar. Really burnt, bitter, assy tar. I used to be a barista at Peet’s Coffee, so I know from good coffee, and the stuff they serve at DD is basically harmless mediocre coffee, while Starbucks is just gross.
    Also, I’ve noticed that DD does a much better job than Starbucks positioning itself for commuter clientele around here. There are DD stands in subway stations and standalone stores near the commuter rail and all over the loop. On my ride to work in the morning I see a lot of DD cups, but none from Starbucks.

  4. Rajio says:

    Explain again how selling coffee cosntituties ‘starbucks envy’?

  5. 44 in a Row says:

    Also, I’ve noticed that DD does a much better job than Starbucks positioning itself for commuter clientele around here.

    I think the convenience factor is pretty damn big, for some people even bigger than preference for one kind of coffee or the other, or a sense of one being the “anti-” anything. I started going to Starbucks in college because there was one around the corner from my dorm; I continue to do so because Starbucks is on the same block as my subway stop. To go to Dunkin Donuts would entail crossing the street, and I’m just not up for that kind of exercise in the morning.

  6. ccs178 says:

    I agree with Kerry. You can smell how bad Starbucks’ coffee is when you walk in the door.

  7. virgilstar says:

    Now, if DD were to actually do this properly, and go with fair-trade coffee from the start, they might get my business. Until that happens, DD, Starbucks (agreed about the tar taste), McD’s, and all the other mega-coffee Corps. are just not on the list.

  8. Morton Fox says:

    That will be perfect. On Free Small Iced Coffee Day, I can use their free wi-fi to post pictures of their oversized coffee mugs to Flickr. Now, that’s convergence.

  9. bentcorner says:

    I’ll get a latte at Starbucks, but I wont drink the drip coffee. It always tastes burned. DD regular drip coffee is the greatest. I buy it by the cup and I buy the bagged beans.

  10. Nicholai says:

    The one thing that stops this company from being great is the name. I mean, when I think of “Donuts” I think of fat, and sugar. And I don’t want to go to a place that reminds me of fat and sugar.

  11. formergr says:

    Yup, like the Starbucks “mixed drinks”, but hate with the fire of a thousand suns their drip coffee. I can barely tolerate the breakfast blend if need be, but even that is too strong/burnt/tar tasting. DD is fine, though you have to monitor them too closely when they add your milk or it’ll be way too much. Peet’s and Seattle’s Best are both really good.

  12. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    With all due respect to kerry, if Starbucks coffee tasted like “Really burnt, bitter, assy tar”, I don’t think that I would have ever finished one cup of theirs. Possibly, if there were a decent indie coffeehouse in my sleepy little Rust Belt city, I’d be spoiled for Starbucks, but the nearest decent indie place is a forty-five-minute drive away. I think of ‘bucks as an efficient caffeine delivery system.

    As for DD coffee… nothing special there. When I make coffee at home, I usually alternate one of the darker Eight O’Clock Coffee beans with something different for variety; I just got a bag of the Caribou Coffee Obsidian beans that’s kind of nice.

  13. doodoopieIluvU says:

    Got news for you, Dunkin Donuts has been around slinging coffee a LOT longer than Charbux. Yet they just started updating their restaurants to “keep up with the times” and you call it “Starbucks Envy.” Need to consult the history books before posting nonsense on the internets. Charbux isn’t the first of its kind, only the most annoying.

    …and their coffee doesn’t just taste burnt, their beans are burnt due to mass over processing…

  14. mac-phisto says:

    “We’re not a sleepy little New England company anymore” you know what chief? leave my double-d alone (except maybe those styrofoam cups). if i were the type to drink a double-whipped latte mochachino with fat-free milk & extra pretentiousness, my m-3 wouldn’t be caught dead in the same parking lot as a pink & orange building.

  15. Lewis says:

    The other challenge is, DD, as a franchise licensor, has to get its owners to expend the capital to convert to the new Starnuts format. That takes time, money and potentially dealing with a lot of pushback from mom & pop DD franchisee.

  16. Indecision says:

    “Next he plans to triple the number of U.S. stores, to 15,000, by 2020…”

    I’d like to know where most of these stores are going. Personally, I already have five Dunkin Donuts near me. One each on the way to and from work, one near the laundromat I use, one at the Parkway exit leading to my house, and one just opened up in the grocery store I go to. (Interestingly, the nearest Starbucks is almost 10 miles away.)

    It’d be a shame for Dunkin to end up hurting themselves by expanding too much.

  17. crayonshinobi says:

    @shiftless: Ditto! Starbucks envy or no, DD tastes a lot better than Starbucks.

    Also, they should bring back that guy from the commercials in the 80′s.

  18. William Mize says:


    Ever since The Donut Guy Left, it’s been chaos! Chaos, I tell ya!

  19. @Indecision: I know the Washington, DC area is a big target for DD. I’m lucky enough to have one within a mile, but doing a “Store Locator” search for 20036 (Northwest DC) only pulls up five locations – spread across the city.

    Once you get away from New England and New York to points south and east, there is room for much expansion.

  20. nequam says:

    One of the best things about DD is that they add the cream and/or sugar for you. There is nothing quite as annoying as having to stand beside some idiot fixing his coffee at starbucks, taking a sip after each splash of cream to see if it’s enough.

  21. thepassenger says:

    “I’d like to know where most of these stores are going.”

    All depends on where you live–although the northeast is fairly saturated, there are still large swaths of the country where there are (sadly) no DD’s. According to an article I read a few months ago in the WSJ about these expansion plans (which the Time article sounds like a retread of), most of the new locations will be (not too surprisingly) in the more southern and western parts of the US. I seem to recall them specifically mentioning northern Florida and either Kansas City or St. Louis. California too.

    I would welcome the chance to grab a sandwich at DD (as long as they were good) either for lunch or on the way home from work, because once I’ve had my daily allotment of caffeine I don’t have a reason to visit later in the day, but there are so many locations here in greater Boston that it would be extremely convenient.

  22. TVarmy says:

    @crayonshinobi:

    I’ve got some bad news. The “Time to make the donuts” guy … was sent to a farm about a year ago.

  23. r81984 says:

    Starbucks envies Dunken Donuts.
    Even though starbucks has the bigger reputation for coffee, Dunken Donuts sells more coffee then Starbucks. Dunken Donuts sell more coffee then any other retailer in the US.

  24. Joafu says:

    I love DD, maybe they’re finally going to expand in the Midwest; there aren’t many DD around here.

  25. alicetheowl says:

    Where will they go? Where they’re not. We don’t have a single one in Asheville, NC; one has to drive to Tennessee or Raleigh to find one. Apparently they’re putting in five of them within the next several years, most of which will be put inside existing gas stations.

    Asheville can’t be the only expanding city in America with no Dunkies.

  26. Kbomb says:

    DD: Better coffee, less pretentious.

    Also, all their espresso roast coffee is fair trade. I don’t think the drip is though :(

  27. coreyk72 says:

    I prefer DD to *Bux 1000%.

    If DD REALLY wants to improve their stores and the customers’ experience there, they would stop hiring workers who struggle with the English language and brain damaged English as first language speakers.

    No matter which DD location I go into, I ALWAYS have to repeat my simple coffee order (usually medium/large Hazelnut, skim, 1 sugar) at least 1 or 2 more times before it sinks in with the drone on the other side of the counter.

    Remodel the workforce before you remodel the stores, PLEASE!

    I find that no matter how bad the coffee is, *BUX has good employees for the most part.

  28. Indecision says:

    @thepassenger: “All depends on where you live–although the northeast is fairly saturated, there are still large swaths of the country where there are (sadly) no DD’s.”

    Having lived in the northeast my entire life (MA, then NJ), I had no idea. I guess I just (naively) assumed they were everywhere. Like Starbucks, except they seem to actually be everywhere.

    @coreynyc: “If DD REALLY wants to improve their stores and the customers’ experience there, they would stop hiring workers who struggle with the English language…”

    I wonder how much DD corporate could really do about that, given that the restaurants are (mostly? entirely?) franchised. I don’t see it as much where I am in NJ, but in MA (near Framingham) I ended up memorizing “un café pequeño, con crema y una poca azúcar” so I wouldn’t end up with 8 tablespoons of sugar in my small coffee. Fortunately I didn’t need to use it often.

  29. hop says:

    they put a dd in one of the local wal-marts…the coffee is almost as expensive as starbucks……..

  30. Sudonum says:

    @Indecision:
    Head south!!! Not a DD for miles. Here in Lafayette, LA we have 2 Starbucks and one of them is in a Target store. New Orlenas has (had?) a bunch of $tarbucks. But there are also some very good local stores around, C&C and Mello Joy.

  31. Ran Kailie says:

    Wait, DD has been selling bagged coffee forever, my mother use to buy it when I was a kid. Yeah the Lattes are newer but not that new, they had those in like 2003 when I lived across the street from a DD.

    They’re coffee is better then Starbucks, and they had tasty donuts to boot. Dunkin donuts has had food since like 2003 too. The one I use to live across from had a togo and a baskin robbins inside, I could get coffee, donuts, sandwiches, ice cream, milkshakes, soup, etc.

    And now there is a 24/hr DD/Baskin robbins down the street. Now THAT is heaven.

  32. SmoovyG says:

    @Indecision:

    Well, considering they have a grand total of one Dunkin’ in all of California, I’d say there’s some room for growth on the west coast for starters.

  33. Helvetian says:

    This is good news, competition is always good. I like DD.

  34. Indecision says:

    @SmoovyG: I had no idea! Never been to California. I have been to Seattle, though, and it looks like there aren’t any DDs within 50 miles of there, either. Not that it surprises me. Aside from being Starbucks HQ, they’ve got Seattle’s Best, which is damn good stuff. (It’s even served in McDonalds instead of their own brand.)

    I swear, I learn more about this country every day. Unfortunately, most of it is useless trivia :)

  35. LAGirl says:

    @SmoovyG:

    where is it??? and why don’t we have one in LA??

  36. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    So now they’ll have to change the name to “Dunquin Fine Pastries,” sell $5 coffee drinks, and hire fancy baristas….so wait, what’s the point of this whole escapade again?

    (And if you like DD, come to New England, where every small town has at least one, and maybe 5 or 10).

  37. SmoovyG says:

    @Indecision:

    When I moved out to Los Angeles in 1999, I made finding a Dunkin’ a priority. Everyone I asked seemed to think there was one down the street or around the corner, but they were always wrong. I called corporate headquarters eventually and found out that all the franchises had shut down except for the sole location in NoCal.

    Which leads me to…

    @LAGirl:

    IIRC, I was told there’s a Dunkin’ in San Jose. Never did find out why the company shut down the non-franchised branches out here. Every time they opened a freaking Krispy Kreme, I shed another tear.

  38. schvitzatura says:

    @ Joafu:

    Tim Hortons pretty much has a lock on major cities in Ohio, after their expansion via partnership with Wendy’s.

    Dunkin’ may find the road rough expanding in the Midwest.

  39. schvitzatura says:

    @ nequam:

    taking a sip after each splash of cream to see if it’s enough

    Sounds like someone has a death wish. Or the basis for a really funny sitcom plot (think Larry David)…

  40. schvitzatura says:

    They can’t get enough of Dunkin’, even in Karachi! They like ‘em so much, they come to this country to open new DD franchises.

    Joe Biden was given a bum rap for his DD/Pak comment; he could have put a positive spin on it.

    Still, he’s a plagiarist.

  41. crayonshinobi says:

    @TVarmy: Oh no! That’s awful… well, he will not be forgotten!!

    Oh, and everyone keeps mentioning that DD’s aren’t in the midwest, but they are everywhere in the Chicagoland area…so they at least have a presence.

  42. etinterrapax says:

    @Indecision: Same here. We moved to Syracuse, NY in 1998 and there were none, and then there was one. I was used to three within a ten-block radius. More if you live in Massachusetts, five times more if you live in Boston. There were none in Minneapolis, and I had the worst corn muffin cravings the whole time I lived there. I bought one from somewhere else, and it was essentially yellow cake. That’s not the stuff.

    As for whether donuts involve fat and sugar, hell yes! Sheesh, one occasionally isn’t going to hurt you any. A whole box every Saturday is something else again. I don’t care for coffee, but if the donuts and muffins aren’t there when that occasional day happens for me because they were trying to placate the health Nazis, there’s going to be the kind of trouble only millions of pissed-off donut lovers can bring.

  43. tz says:

    I can’t drink Starbuck’s but I have DD nearly every day. So much that as soon as I enter my local DD, they have the XL with hazelnut flavoring (not the sickeningly sweet syrup, but just the nutty flavoring – artifical or not it makes it taste even better) and my extra cream. Real coffee cream. The stick to the artery kind, not the half watered down version.