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The Wall Street Journal reports on Dunkin’ Donuts expansion strategy: “To give what has been essentially an Eastern chain of coffee and doughnut shops a stronger presence in the South, the West and overseas. The plan calls for Dunkin' to eventually increase the number of its U.S. outlets from the current 5,300-plus (out of a total of 7,000-plus) to 15,000, and move into more foreign countries, including China.

“The plan involves more than geographical expansion. Last year, the chain designed more stores with coffeehouse touches and added savory afternoon sandwiches to appeal to those who no longer eat three meals.”

Even as the company upgrades and tweaks its menu, it is offering “upgraded interiors, with shiny steel cases and espresso machines placed at customers' eye level…aimed at attracting patrons who like a touch of the atmosphere that Starbucks and other cafés offer.” And the single most-important attribute that must be maintained throughout all these changes – speed. Getting people in and out quickly, and not encouraging them to meander or, heaven forbid, linger.

Still the big challenge for Dunkin’ Donuts is to figure out how far it can go without alienating its core consumer, and it is making sure that it takes very seriously the comments and criticisms from regular shoppers, as opposed to infrequent patrons.
KC's View:
While we’ve stopped patronizing Dunkin’ Donuts, even the one directly across the street from MNB World Headquarters, it has nothing to do with these changes. Rather, it’s just because we’ve stopped eating doughnuts and we like Starbucks coffee better.

But we find this interesting, especially because of how much attention Dunkin’ Donuts is paying to its shoppers – as opposed to, say, consultants and pundits.

One of the more interesting days we ever spent as a consumer was when LL Bean asked us to participate in an all-day focus group in which it was trying to determine how far it could go in the menswear business without alienating its core customers. It was as interesting to look at the new clothing possibilities as it was to watch the wheels turn in the executives’ minds.