Monday, August 27, 2007

'Dunkin' Donuts' Steps Up With Concepts


If there's one subject Northeasterners can relate to, it's anything related to Dunkin' Donuts. Love 'em or hate 'em, we can't help seeing them everywhere we go. There's about eight shops per town, outclassing Tim Horton's, Starbucks, and even The Whole Donut combined!

Just recently, Dunkin' Brands, Inc., which encompasses various quick serve merchants under one banner including ToGos (who?), Baskin' Robbins (wonderful ice cream, often very dreadful place to work), and of course Dunkin' Donuts has recently expanded their master plan of offering much more than what's been offered at Dunkin' shops in the last year.


Earlier this year, The Caldor Rainbow observed such change taking place at one such central Massachusetts Dunkin' Donuts shop offering 'Hash Browns', a something menu item typically found at McDonald's breakfast hours. Last year, we sighted unusual menu offerings at an upstate New York rest stop, offering varieties of breakfast pizzas, flatbread sandwiches, and a marketing campaign to push Iced Tea. Seeing it might not happen in Connecticut soon, whose latest real menu additions at many shops across the state was the addition of espresso beverages back in 2003 and Smoothie beverages in Summer 2006, the invasion of diversified food menu offerings has come in swift in time for the late Summer and Fall seasons of 2007.

What about the donuts?

Diverse menu option is a necessary, evolutionary step in quick and general food service. When the company introduced espresso beverages in 2003, they began their campaign to gut-punch Starbucks' once iconic market of 'finer' offerings. Then, the move to include yogurt Smoothies opened a floodgate of opportunity for those who wouldn't particularly stop into a Dunkin' shop for their dislike of coffee, especially for kids who don't drink the widely-adult consumed beverage. As trends change, time goes on, competition comes along challenging some familiar names in the business to reach out to demographics who would normally avoid stopping in for coffee, a beverage most adult Americans already, essentially depend on all day long.


But this time, Dunkin' corporate is moving towards an encompassing new image for Dunkin' Donuts you know all too well, leaving simplicity behind and destined to challenge the handsome, avant-garde Starbucks Coffee store models popping up all around. Forget the bland, white-clad store models of the millennium. Forget the unsettling tones of prunish-magenta stripes when you're standing at the counter. Forget escaping almost immediately after you've gotten your coffee. The new design invites to turn the once blue-collar 'grab-n-go' feel of Dunkin' Donuts into an all encompassing rainbow of white (arguably the chain has shifted white collar), and even green (the Starbucks crew).

Out with the microwaves? In with the 'Turbo Chef'.

With the coming of such menu options, it's time to step it up. Realistically, stove tops and grills are insufficient, and often dangerous to operate for most of the youth-oriented crowds to run shops. Enter the Turbo Chef Tornado Oven, a $10,000 state-of-the-art microwave-oven hybrid that, well, cooks up various items on-the-fly, most of which one-minute or less and produces a heartier outcome than that of what conventional "nuking" cannot. The push to enter new menu items have pushed microwaves out, rendering them obsolete at almost all Dunkin' Donuts shops by now. Introduced back during the 1990's, microwaves provided effective quick-serve cooking when Dunkin' Donuts marketed a bevy of pre-frozen meats and egg-equipped breakfast sandwiches as an alternative to simply donuts, in conjunction with the offering bi-to-tri-daily baked bagels.

You may have seen them before. Other franchise-run operations, like Subway, introduced the Turbo Chef concept to maintain quick-serve, toasted-sub sandwiches in taking on rival Quizno's, who prides its selection of deli-meat sandwiches through a conveyor-belt of electric coils. Dunkin' rival Starbucks also uses the ovens, as they are quickly becoming the industry standard for effective quick-serve toasting/cooking.



While it may not happen suddenly in your area, the company is slowly moving stores up to a sleek and contemporary look unlike the often aged, bland looks that saturate the market. Just this past week, The Caldor Rainbow stumbled across what appears to be Connecticut's first conceptual store; in Norwich, Connecticut. Just opened, the alternative look of the Norwich store gives hope for the chain to earn some clout where it has been lost in past years criticized for being too cold or alienating a hang out compared to the warmth of some other leading coffee chains who offer amenities like fireplaces, sofas, WiFi, jazzy ambient tunes in a generally relaxation-promoted environment. A local store in Bristol, Connecticut urges customers not to hang around the scant-seating areas available in the lobby for more than twenty minutes. That needs to change.

The new move is many a one that is unusual for the company. Is Dunkin' finally succumbing to the trendy generation its largely escaped over the years? Snarky ad after another attacking Starbucks own brand of (er, arguably pretentious) lifestyle consumerism, they won't be changing their sizes a la Venti (not even recognized in the dictionary! - yet) or calling their paper-lined small-sized 10 oz. coffee "tall". But the company wants to promote an image thats been void from their scene, and prevalent in many others' lounge-style scapes that's proven successful over at its competitors and further out. After all, Dunkin' Donuts is, at heart, a coffee house.

Not just taking cues from Starbucks, Dunkin' hopes to change following occasional criticism for the bare-bones and often dilapidated atmosphere stores have sought to improve for a while now. Seattle's Best, inside many Borders bookstores and highbrow sandwich chain Panera Bread are latching onto the cafe-style appeal - and making it work. To those who may be quick to forget, Dunkin' Donuts used to serve pancakes, bake donuts hourly (which soon changed to an every four hour pledge by the early 1970s), and actually encourage customers to sit counterside and sip coffee out of porcelain mugs whereby refills were aromatic a la diners. But even Dunkin' Donuts, like many other nationally recognized chains including McDonald's, wouldn't be the last one to go retrograde or spiff up their image in the name of trend.

The right direction? So what about the donuts?

When did you last see a commercial featuring rows of donuts beyond sight urging people to make the trip worthwhile? Better get out the Quija board and scare up ol' Michael "Fred the Baker" Vale. Would Dunkin' Donuts sell out to Starbucks' brand of lifestyle trend? Some customers have complained about what the loss of the focal point of what the chain should be promoting: the donuts. Well everyone knows they have donuts - and decades of leading selection and quality to reinforce that so there's really no need to keep pounding that one (especially to the health lobby, pardon the pun). Like McDonalds, and other national chains, Dunkin' Donuts will promote whatever they've got to introduce to an expanding menu and selection.

When Dunkin' Donuts established itself in the 1950s and 60s, they offered fresh donuts hourly, soon became every four hours by the 1970s. As the chain expanded into the mid and late 70's, munchkins changed the face of the ordinary donut and menu others like "souper" soups were offered. By the 1980's, the peak of the Dunkin' boom, three bakes were made throughout the day with corresponding paper colors. Most stores today, operating under different parent ownership, realize the pressures of promoting donuts in health-conciousness, thus having deterred focus onto other items such as loose-fitting, fun, ice-themed beverages; The Coolatta and even various flavors of brewed coffee by the mid-1990's.


Sources have further lead us to believe one of the state's premiere, original Dunkin' Donuts shops on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, which has been there since 1962 and has greeted generations of motorists up and down the 5-15 corridor since, will soon be central Connecticut's showcase for the new concept and generations to come.

The Caldor Rainbow will be keeping a close eye on the Newington location in coming months ensuing this report, hoping Dunkin' Donuts would once again full-fledge back into coffee and donuts mode...

EDIT (9-27-2007): The Norwich [concept] store is now open. Thanks to Joseph for the confirmation.


Anonymous said...

My home is 2 minutes away from the new Dunkin' Donuts concept. I must say, I am very happy to see a sleek new style (rather than the previous colonial style they had last).

Now the funny thing is, the new location is serving mini pizzas, and now they have hash browns. If they keep adding anymore new kinds of food on to their menus, we might be seeing another McDonalds in the heart of Dunkin' Donuts.

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

Great news! I hope you'll keep an eye on it and notify me when it's open. I just hope maybe they can start hiring some people who are a little better with communicating/interacting with people (a common problem with Dunkin' shops especially in my area).

Buck Ninja said...

Bitchin' man!
This is one primo cool blog. I stop at Dunkin's everyday. You got any old photos of the Connecticut Post Mall? I used to spend my days hanging there back in high school, playin' hookie, ya know. Kepp up the good stuff!

Anonymous said...

Nick, It has been open for a week and a half already. The place is pretty nice...AND it's never busy!

Oh god...Dunkin' Donuts always hires the worst people. People who I dislike, girls that I had really bad relationships with, or just plain forigen people.

I had no problem with the people at the New Location in Norwich. They were all pretty friendly.

The insane thing is, norwich has 3 locations on West Main st! One past Shop Rite, the new Concept, and one for Wal-Mart!....and they're all less than 2 minutes away from each other....convenient?

Anonymous said...

I still kind of miss the old days of Dunkin' Donuts. A lot of the dads of the town would head over there for coffee and donuts and a smoke after dinner. There was the Dunkin' Donuts logo wall paper, the counter where you could sit and a few tables here and there. Best of all was the window where you could see the person making fresh donuts. It broke my heart when they switched to centrally located warehouse distribution for their donuts and again when they hired Rachael Ray as their spokesperson. I sure hope they win their fight against Starbucks.

Anonymous said...


Why is Price Chopper in Connecticut and Shaw's in Keene, New Hampshire selling DD 1 pound bags of coffee?


Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

Marc: It's not only Price Chopper and Shaw's selling the bagged coffee. I've seen them at Target for $6.99, and even at BJ's Wholesale for $16 (the 40 oz. bulk bags).

Dunkin' Donuts and Procter & Gamble, just last month have begun a campaign to now offer bagged coffee on supermarket shelves for the sake of even more convenience and to rival Starbucks, who already has their own, extensive home brew line. This means, unless you don't have a (few) Dunkin' shop(s) near you on all sides of the compass you can now buy the coffee with your eggs, bread and milk.

But you'd be much better off seeking out the "shop" versions instead of these somewhat gimped supermarket versions.

Please note the two versions; shop and supermarket; not one in the same.

The "shop" version is One Pound (16 oz.), offered in either (pre)ground or Whole Bean. Obviously, the Whole Bean is for coffee aficionados who must brew right after the grind. The "supermarket" version (or populous version) is a mere 12 oz. bag, slightly downscaled, and do not offer Whole Bean.

Throw in the fact that most stores have bulk deals; typically 2 Pounds for (around) $10 or 3 for $13.49, you'd be much better off buying at a shop.

Personally, I think the bag art on the new shop versions are much fancier! But if you're not around a Dunkin' shop or need your fix right there, it will cater to convenience and to have the opportunity to find the harder-to-find Cinnamon Spice which is not available to order in stores (it was; back in 2003-2004) and is a rarer find in bagged form as stores typically carry it around the Fall/Winter months only.

Anonymous said...

Saw a DD Commercial on TV this morning. Saw the Hashbrown Coins in the ad.

pika23 said...

we got a new DD's down the street from me in Brick NJ...its got the hasbrowns and some stuff the other DD's down the other side of the stereet don't have. I even saw a DUnkin Donuts Sandwich shop the other day. Not TOGO's, but actual Dunkin Sandwiches i think it was called...Personally i don't care for Baskins Robbins, the shakes are way to sweet and make me sick

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