New Dunkin' Donuts stores aim to make you linger

Wanting to be more like Starbucks, the chain is adding touches like jazz and soft seating to lure customers all day long.

By Aimee Picchi Jun 7, 2013 1:06PM

Customers sit inside the Dunkin' Donuts store in New Delhi, India on May 8, 2012 (© Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)Dunkin' Donuts has bigger aspirations than serving as a morning fuel station for coffee and doughnuts. 


Noting that Starbucks (SBUX) lures customers all day long through its hip soundtracks and comfortable seating, Dunkin' is aiming to ape the coffee chain's success, Bloomberg reports. To that end, owner Dunkin' Brands (DNKN) is undertaking the chain's most radical overhaul since its early days. 


"We haven't always been conducive to that relaxed environment," chief executive Nigel Travis told the publication. "So soft seating, the ability to watch TV, to listen to appropriate music and just do things slightly slower than you would in the morning is what we think we've been missing."


That means Dunkin' Donuts stores will ditch the bright color scheme and hard plastic chairs in favor of earth tones, booths and jazz. It has opened 90 new stores so far, and it's aiming for 600 more by year's end. Dunkin' offers franchisees options to either remodel or build new stores at costs ranging from $175,000 to up to $700,000. At least once a decade, franchisees are required to remodel their stores, Bloomberg noted.


What will customers see for that much money? Think faux-leather chairs, glass partitions with LED lights that change colors, and stained-poplar rails. The most expensive color scheme is called Jazz Brew and aims to impart a relaxing mood with dark orange and brown booth seating and hanging light fixtures. 


For Dunkin' Brands, the changes come amid heightened competition, and not only from Starbucks. Fast-casual chains such as Panera Bread (PNRA) have won fans for comfortable seating and relaxing environments. 


Dunkin' is betting its changes can help lure new customers who otherwise might have opted for a higher-end cafe. 


"It can compete on the taste of its coffee and the taste of its pastries -- of which a lot of people really, really liked," Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing at Cornell University, told Bloomberg. "They just didn't like the atmosphere."


Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 


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157Comments
Jun 7, 2013 2:31PM
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I'm afraid DD is losing their focus.   You use to be able to walk into a DD shop at any time of the day or night and find a good selection of FRESH doughnuts.  But, now their main attraction are breakfast sandwiches with eggs that come out of heated plastic bag, not from a grill, lunch sandwiches that are more dubious in origin than a McDonald's hamburger and drinks that are fussier and sweeter than anything you can find at Sonic.


Jun 7, 2013 2:50PM
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Just give me a good cup of coffee at a reasonable price, thats all. All the "upgrades" are a waste of money if you forget where your base lies.
Jun 7, 2013 2:20PM
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They haven't been a friendly place to sit and drink coffee ever since the drive thru. I've been going to my local DD for over 30 years and it went from a large full service unit that made all it's own products fresh everyday to a quickie run and drive through with stale pastries and nuked sandwiches. It had a diner style counter and plenty of  table seating. They got rid of the counter and downsized the seating to make room for the drive through and the long lines inside. Now that they have competition with a different business model they want the seating customers back? They are like the big banks, they got so big they forgot about personal  service now they are trying hard to get those customers back that went elsewhere.
Jun 7, 2013 2:32PM
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Customers that spend about $8 each then linger for a couple of hours aren't very profitable. They'll tie up a table while using wi-fi or whatever and won't spend much if anything after the initial purchase. People come to D&D for the coffee and doughnuts, not the environment. This is a bad idea that will lose money unless they start offering higher priced (and higher margin) items.
Jun 7, 2013 6:30PM
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Dunkin Donuts used to be nicer when you would walk in and smell the donuts...they took that appealing flavor away...plus the coffee..in some areas are watering it down..more water less beans...want people to come back and sit....THINK FRESH FRESH FRESH....

they should go back to baking on sight instead of shipping in stale donuts

Jun 7, 2013 2:51PM
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Before they worry about redoing their stores, maybe it would be nice to train their employees. Almost every other time I go there they screw up the order. Complaining does no good. Since a lot of their stores are franchises, the franchisees are only interested in making money, not responding to customer complaints. How can stores routinely run out of donuts, bagels, crossiants, bacon, sausage, etc., etc. In my area, they have the fresh donut buisness all to themselves. Because of this, they know customers have no other choices and treat them accordingly. Dunkin should demand more of their franchise holders. They give the company a bad name.
Jun 7, 2013 2:55PM
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Isn't it better to get the people their order then shuffle them out.  How does some hipsters lingering for hours after buying one coffee translate to more  profits?  Starbucks overcharges for it's coffee, that's how they make the big profits.  The d-bags hanging around typing their great American novel isn't what's profitable.
Jun 7, 2013 7:17PM
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DD needs to return to what made them so popular and famous. Fresh homemade donuts fresh made and cooked on the premises 2 - 3 times a day. Focus on the coffee and donuts, maybe some cappuccino, but get back to the basics and serve real fresh donuts again not the old stale frozen donuts that you can get at any convenient store or fast food chain at half the price. DD is lost its path when they merged , or bought, Baskin Robins.
Jun 7, 2013 3:25PM
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Wish DD execs. would insist franchise  owner's not change quality.  We found donuts are getting smaller and the jelly is becoming inferior.  We then wonder where else they are cutting on quality and refuse to buy  any more of their products. 
Jun 7, 2013 3:07PM
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boycotting DD last two experiences were terrible. They need to retrain their employees not to yell at the customers.

 

Jun 7, 2013 3:09PM
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DD never seem to have my one donut that I always get. I don't what it is. I thought they were supposed to have donuts made all thee time but apparently not.  Common sense should tell them that when the trays get low they should go make more but no.  They should focus on DONUTS only.  NOTHING more. And of course coffee.
Jun 7, 2013 5:24PM
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Wrong business model - even Starbucks is putting in kiosks instead of large new stores.  Go back to the basic demographics that you were built on - good coffee, friendly and fast drive thru service.  Donuts should be warm and fresh.  Spend some money on customer service training with a bonus or other incentive to be polite and do a good job.  Been to three different shops this past month - first one got the coffee wrong (I wanted cream and no sugar); second got the donut wrong and the third one forgot to give me my senior discount after I had asked for it.  Three different stores, three different problems but it tells me that no one is watching the shop. 

Jun 7, 2013 3:30PM
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OMG, does this mean they'll run outta donuts faster? The one in my neighborhood doesn't replace donuts so you often hear "no glazed," "no Boston creme," no-no-no so I just get coffee and wonder that a donut shop doesn't make or keep fresh donuts on hand.  (The DD in the next town laughs at the one near me..the next town always has donuts & is more than willing to get our business!)  //  Talking about the employees...the kids at my DD make the whole place run better! When it's just the owners, it's slow and not as friendly. Bring on the teenagers who know what they're doing!!

 

Jun 7, 2013 3:18PM
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I  hadnt had a hot fresh donut in years sooooo....we stop at dunken donuts to splurge a little,  we lost $10.00 on the deal, got cold dried up donuts for our money, I was so disapointed.  I always ask for fresh food every place I go, like this day, was assured they were fresh baked......cold and dried up fresh baked?  well I hadnt had a fresh donut in yrs.  maybe I just imagined them being warm and soft...ya think? LOL

Jun 7, 2013 3:03PM
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they need to bake the donuts fresh in house not send out for frozen , we bought a doz  of what we were told was fresh baked, they were cold and dried up,  lost $10.00 over that bad idea I had for fresh donuts.......I would go in and stay a little bit if they had a warm fresh donut! Id love it! 
Jun 7, 2013 3:40PM
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I have always like DD's coffee. The problem that I currently see is that the franchise's have spotty customer service - better than McDonalds, Burger King, and most of the fast food chains, but not even close to Chick Fil A, or Jimmy Johns excellent, and consistent, customer service.

There seems to somewhat of a language barrier at times (at the locations in my area) - I don't always understand them, and visa versa. This is fine, but I am sometimes uncomfortable asking them to repeat their question. There needs to be some kind of clarity here - at least with the person manning the register and taking the order. This leads to wrong orders (by mistake), and what could be construed as poor customer service by default, but not deliberately so.

I still love the new food choices, the coffee, and the price. Don't so much care for their donuts - they are just average to me. Some improvement on the above would make them superior to everyone.
Jun 7, 2013 5:36PM
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30 years ago they had a wider selection of donuts. Anyone remember the blueberry chip creme logs? And I've tried their breakfast sandwiches twice to be fair, but they are terrible, you can get a better ham and cheese croissant at Burger King.
Jun 7, 2013 4:55PM
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So,

 

As I read this they want folks to hang out at Dunkin's, lmao.

Me and a fellow Rider had come back from the NH Mountains on a Hot Day last week, we decided to make a final stop at a local Dunkin's in town.  Went in to order a ice coffee, within a few minutes one of the cashiers cam out and told us we had to leave the lot or she'd call the police.

In short the cops showed up, I had finished my coffee my buddy wound up tossing his Coolata after the officers made it clear we had to leave the property, wow, that was relaxing.....ROFLMA

F--K Dunkin's

Jun 7, 2013 2:11PM
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I would like all those lucky people that live in a state where there is even a DD I am jealous I have to fly to Vegas to buy DD there are none in Cali. even though they advertise on TV. the closest I can get is their coffee in the supermarket........ 
Jun 7, 2013 4:20PM
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I flew out of Providence RI airport May 25th. I stopped at DD in the airport after security for a breakfast sandwich and a medium coffee. When I sat at my gate waiting to board 3 minutes later , I pulled out a wrong sandwich I ordered sausage ,egg , cheese and got bacon. It was cold and uncooked , the coffee was ok but not great. I did not have time to go back and complain. Maybe that's what they know there!

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