We recently stopped for coffee at an urban intersection where a Starbucks and a Dunkin’ Donuts sat on opposite corners, facing off in a classic retail rivalry like Macy’s & Gimbels. Deciding to avoid Starbuckian yuppiness (okay, we drink there all the time), we walked into the Dunkin’ Donuts.

But something seemed wrong… the DD looked a little, er, fancier than normal. The lighting was dimmer and less antiseptic, the signage and typography more upscale, the furniture made of wood instead of plastic. Even the logo had a playful little twist to it.

Turns out we had walked into one of DD’s new experimental brand environments, where the traditionally downmarket store is aiming for a more upscale clientele, or at least to catch up with the aspirational brand feeling of Starbucks. This experiment in environmental design was recently featured in ID Magazine (illustrated above).

We walked out with three medium iced coffees (and please note that the DD medium is equivalent to Starbucks’s biggest size, venti — and the DD large looks like damn near half a gallon of coffee) plus three donuts for $5.81, probably 1/3 what we would have paid across the street. The upscale decor and merchandising apparently does not translate into upscale prices. And the coffee was great.


7 responses to “Would Starbucks tell Dunkin’?”

  1. But does the ‘new’ DD do a ‘short cappuccino’ I wonder?

  2. @Rob: You mean the super-secret Starbucks short cap. I don’t know the answer, but I’d bet that DD does have a dozen secret donut varieties available only to DD connoisseurs.

  3. You need some kind of trackback mechanism on here!

    I’ve responded to this direction taken by DD on my blog, and mentioned your post in the process.

  4. @Jeremy: I generally disable trackbacks for the simple reason that they make my comments area look ugly, but I’m starting to reconsider that.

  5. Chris, As someone who slings coffee at a non-chain indy coffee shop on the weekend I can tell you most of that Starbucks sticker price is for the experience. Thats why you order you venti not a large (see the difference). They know and most people know it but people keep walking through the door. DD or Tim Hortons when I’m on the road. The experience might not be the same but its coffee.

  6. Bobby Opulent Avatar
    Bobby Opulent

    I hope Dunkin’ keeps going strong. Their coffee, at it’s best, is fantastic.

    I don’t know how Starbucks managed to make a multi-billion dollar company selling its burnt charcoal coffee. I know, I know… it’s anything that’s not straight coffee there that’s good…

  7. I think that you really can judge people by the way they comment different stuff. Some people, even expressing negative thoughts, are still polite and they respect and understand other people. Some people are not even trying to be nice, they just don’t care. I think self-confident person will always act nice, no matter what other people do