Dunkin' Donuts

Wherever life has taken me, Dunkin' Donuts has been there. As a little kid, I'd enjoy Munchkins whenever they were offered by parents, teachers, or classmates. When mowing my grandparents' lawn in middle school, I always had a Strawberry Coolatta in my hand. Attending varsity hockey games was a common senior year activity for me, and never did I go to one without a Dunkin' Donuts hot chocolate. Even today, as a non-morning person, I regularly need to down a DD french vanilla coffee, be it iced or hot, in order to make it to lunch time at work. I don't think I've gone more than a month without having something from Dunkin' Donuts in over ten years. A large factor in this could be that Dunkin' Donuts is everywhere. In my hometown, we have four of them. There's another one right down the street from where I work, and another one, of course, at the mall.

This has always baffled me. Why the mall? Dunkin' Donuts is famous for running like a well-oiled machine. There are lines out the door during the morning rush hour and the drive-through is routinely ten-plus cars deep. Yet, orders rarely, if ever, take more than thirty seconds to complete. This is fantastic for the morning rush hour. Dunkin' Donuts eateries are conveniently located near freeway exits and on the side of busy roads in general. Right along commuter paths. I suppose I've just never understood whose commute takes them through the mall. And DD is not just in the mall, but in the dead center of the mall. For an eatery whose slogan is "Get in, get out, get back to work," a location in the heart of a shopping mall seems illogical at best. Even more surprisingly, it's not in the food court, or even near it.

Dunkin' Donuts has always taken pride in its rapport with the blue collar working class. Cops, construction workers, and landscapers alike are constantly found in Dunkin' Donuts, mid-shift, picking up a box of joe or dozen donuts for their cohorts. The CEO of Dunkin' Donuts, when asked why he didn't make his stores more Wi-Fi capable like Starbucks, said that he didn't want a bunch of yuppies with laptops taking up the tables when tired highway workers needed to sit down for five minutes. It was a real "fuck you" to Starbucks and the collegiate, book-reading white collar crowd it attracts. I loved it.

Recently, Dunkin' Donuts has expanded its menu to include flatbread sandwiches and "breakfast pizzas." I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I've had some of these new items, and they're not half bad. But on the other, it seems like Dunkin' Donuts is soaring toward that threshold that separates fast food restaurants and specialty eateries. The DD I grew up with offered donuts and bagels to eat, and coffees and sugary concoctions to drink. The breakfast sandwich was always on the menu, but common courtesy always dictated that it should not be ordered when a long line was forming. After all, in order to "get in, get out, and get back to work," you can't be waiting in line for ten minutes while other people's sandwiches are being prepared. Now, I've seen this age-old rule broken more and more often. People, especially youngsters who don't know better, will order a pair of flatbread sandwiches and an egg white omelette, regardless of the current line's length. And that's not entirely their fault. It's Dunkin' Donuts, after all, that gives them the opportunity to do so.

A few years ago, at a Dunkin' Donuts just five minutes from work, I wanted to order a coffee. In front of me was a gaggle of middle school children, all of which placed an order for a full meal and specialty drink of some sort. Ten minutes in, the group was only half-done ordering. Finally one of them said, "let's let this guy go ahead of us." Too annoyed to be grateful to this girl, I did exactly that, and ordered and received my coffee in about twenty seconds. Efficiency is the name of the game. Instead, while waiting to use the bathroom to urinate I'd been held off by ten people who wanted to shower.

I fear for the future of Dunkin' Donuts. How many more sandwiches can they introduce before they're nothing more than a shitty Panera? How many fifteen-minute waits for coffee will it take for the average customer to start to consider alternatives? I understand the desire for expansion, but I can't really agree with the apparent business strategy of Dunkin' Donuts: attract new customers at any cost, including the old customers themselves. I think the business as a whole would have been much better off opening up another subsidiary for all of their sandwiches and pizzas, leaving the original franchise alone as a donuts, bagels, and coffee distributor. They could have called it the "Dunkin' Donuts Bakery" or something similarly straightforward. This would be a perfect thing to have in the mall. It would undeniably be more "restaurant" than "coffee shop," but that's already what DD is anyway. Instead, what we're seeing is a number of "Dunkin' Donuts Express" counters opening up in gas station convenience stores. Smaller venue, smaller menu. The problem is, these places still offer the sandwiches and pizzas, and the only menu-trimming that has been done is the removal of various types of donuts and bagels. It's more or less the opposite direction that I would like to see them head in.

If DD wants "America Runs on Dunkin" to continue to be the case, maybe steering clear of Wi-Fi isn't the only thing they should be doing. The general slowdown in service is a bigger issue in my mind. After all, I'm sure the typical construction worker would rather have speedy service than a place to sit. Did he come to Dunkin' Donuts in order to find a place to sit down, or in order to quickly pick up some tasty "fuel" for his coworkers? So much for "Get in, get out, get back to work."

1 comment:

  1. No more Chai at some places :-(

    I don't want a stupid pizza. I want a delicious sugary chai latte that is dispensed from a machine in mere seconds.