AMSTERDAM — The doughnut, that classic deep-fried American snack, is going forth to do battle with European national treats in their homelands: the Belgian waffle, the Austrian strudel, and the Danish . . . Danish.
After beating a retreat in the 1990s, Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ Donuts has been quietly building up its presence in Europe and now has 120 outlets, mostly in Germany but also in Russia, Spain, Bulgaria and most recently, Britain.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ head of international development, Jeremy Vitaro, says the company is looking to open stores in Denmark, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Despite the weak European economy, it thinks customers have money to spend.
‘‘They’re sophisticated, and they’re culturally very open” to new foods, he said.
Dunkin’s mainstays are doughnuts and coffee, along with muffins and more solid lunch foods, such as bagels. The chain offers variations to please local tastes.
In London, it sells a savory snack called ‘‘Bacon Buttie,’’ as well as porridge.
‘‘Hot cereal, yes,’’ Vitaro says. ‘‘We also do a Croistrami sandwich, that’s a pastrami croissant. So we do localize. We have a curry doughnut in India.’’
Joost Kling, a Dutch food industry entrepreneur, thinks the chain will face something of an uphill battle in the Netherlands.
‘‘They don’t have much name recognition, if any,’’ he said. ‘‘I think a lot will depend on their staying power.’’
Kling has some experience going in the opposite direction. His company, Eat Dutch Waffles, has brought the Dutch delicacy known as ‘‘stroopwafel’’ — a hot waffle cookie filled with syrup — into 1,000 US stores and bakeries.
He guessed around a half of Dutch people know what doughnuts are, but most have only tried low-quality versions from grocery stores.
But Europeans may feel attachment to their own delicacies.
In Belgium, the Brussels waffle is light and fluffy and dusted with powdered sugar, while in Liege they’re heavier and sweeter, with caramelized sugar. The ‘‘Belgian waffle’’ topped with powdered sugar, strawberries and a flourish of whipped cream is probably an American invention. It’s popular in Scandinavia.
In Austria, people with a sweet tooth turn to Apfelstrudel — or Danishes.
In Denmark they also eat Danishes, of course. But the Danes call them ‘‘wienerbrod,’’ or ‘Viennese bread,’ since, as lore has it, the treat was introduced by Austrian bakers. Cinnamon is a favorite flavor.
Vitaro said Dunkin’ is interviewing would-be franchise owners and plans to open several stores in each new market by the end of 2014, focusing on major cities first.