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West Coast, Get Ready — Dunkin' Is Coming, and It's Bringing 'Insta-Ready' Gen Z Drinks With It The coffee shop's sales topped $10 billion in 2021, and its coming in at #5 on our 2023 Franchise 500.

By Britta Lokting

entrepreneur daily

This story appears in the January 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Dunkin'

See where Dunkin' ranks when our 45th Annual Franchise 500 list is released on January 16, 2024.

Started Franchising: 1955 | Total Units: 12,957 | Cost to Open: $437.5K-$1.8M

Dunkin' executives were nervous when the pandemic halted the morning commute, but the company's drive-thru capabilities saved the day. Now, almost three years on, Dunkin' is setting records. U.S. sales topped $10 billion in 2021 and Dunkin' was on track to open 300 new restaurants in 2022, all styled in the brand's new "Next Gen" image. The remodeled restaurants focus on mobile ordering, which has already generated $1 billion in sales.

After falling to No. 11 last year, these innovations propelled Dunkin' back into the Top 10 — for the 15th time in 20 years. But that's not its most impressive streak: It is one of only three franchises that has ranked in every single Franchise 500 in the list's 44-year existence.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this quiz to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

Food and social media are now Dunkin's top priority. Doughnuts have been relocated to the front of the Next Gen stores and iced coffee is on tap at the counter to enhance efficiency and quality control. Dunkin' has doubled down on its iced drinks market, expanding a summer staple into a year-round menu item. It also launched new menu items like avocado toast — a less indulgent alternative to a doughnut or a hearty breakfast sandwich. Dunkin' wanted to reach a new customer base who are looking for a quick bite to pair with their coffee. All of these changes still make for easy to-go and drive-thru orders — the backbone of Dunkin's experience — during a time when people still don't want to get out of their cars.

View the 2023 Franchise 500 Ranking Now

"If you think about that next- generation consumer, they're drinking iced beverages more than hot and they're a little younger, a little more female, a little more diverse," says Scott Murphy, Dunkin's brand president. Those consumers, he says, are looking for iced beverages like Dunkin' Refreshers that are brightly colored and Instagram-ready.

Perhaps no one represents this consumer base better than TikTok influencer and Dunkin' fanatic Charli D'Amelio. The company named a drink after her and partnered with her to host an event for the Dunkin' crew. With her 148 million followers on TikTok and 49 million on Instagram, D'Amelio has been a huge asset to Dunkin'. "We're one of the most-followed restaurant brands on TikTok and it's in part because of her," says Murphy.

Related: How Dunkin' Pivoted to Serve the Home-Office Crowd

Now, the company — which has been mostly East Coast-based — is eyeing an expansion westward. Armed with parent company Inspire Brands' $1 billion-plus ad fund, Murphy says Dunkin' will soon populate the entire country.

Britta Lokting is a journalist based in New York. Her features have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and elsewhere.

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