Saturday, April 8

"Martians talking about Earthlings"

Dunkin' Donuts is trying to go upscale, but not too upscale, the WSJ reports. After a couple of decades lagging other morning-meal outlets, the largely East Coast chain has recently put its focus on coffee and is taking a page from Starbucks to roll out a classier store concept. Only don't let Dunkin's working-class customers know. After studying the differences between their customers and those of the omnipresent Seattle shop, honchos at the no-frills Dunkin' declared a ban on couches in the new stores:

"Early research showed consumers wanted nicer stores, but revealed a potential problem: the loyal Dunkin' tribe was bewildered and turned off by the atmosphere at Starbucks. They groused that crowds of laptop users made it difficult to find a seat, Dunkin' says. They didn't like Starbucks' 'tall,' 'grande' and 'venti' lingo for small, medium and large coffees. And, Dunkin' says, they couldn't understand why anyone would pay as much as $4 for a cup of coffee.

The article gives a great preview of the company's tricky strategy -- to find to happy medium between its old "smoke-filled and dingy" stores and yuppie-infested Starbucks knock-offs. With any luck, I'll get to sample the prototype soon, as permits posted on 8th Street SE a portend a coming Dunkin' shop on Barracks Row here in my very own 'hood.