Is it time to drop the doughnuts?
At first glance, stripping the “Donuts” from Dunkin’ Donuts might seem radical.
After all, many of us grew up where the chain’s doughnut-making was a focus, a point of pride. You could smell all that sugary goodness from the street.
But the Canton-based chain has long since shifted its emphasis to coffee and other beverages. In nearly all shops, the doughnuts are now baked in off-site commissaries.
Now, we learn that Dunkin’ Brands is testing the idea of rechristening the chain Dunkin’, without the Donuts. A franchise is opening in Pasadena, Calif., this month with the truncated name. More are coming. The test coincides with a major restaurant redesign to be rolled out next year.
Whether the idea can work depends on two key constituencies: the franchisees and the customers.
Ed Shanahan, executive director of the Dunkin’ Donuts Independent Franchise Owners, tells me he wouldn’t be surprised if “Dunkin’ ” became the operable name. He says franchisees don’t seem particularly concerned today. They might be open to the change, if done methodically, over time. Franchise contracts typically require a shop to be updated every 10 years, he says, and any sign change like this should be part of those periodic renovations.
As for the customers, a rebranding likely will be tested in “emerging markets,” places where the chain doesn’t have much of a foothold. How this plays out in core markets is another story. But most of us already call it Dunkin’ -- or Dunks, or Dunkies, or some other abbreviated moniker.
Maybe losing the Donuts wouldn’t be so radical after all.