Talking about Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins with franchise owner and VP of Marketing Addison Ames
1. Tell us about Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins.
Dunkin' Donuts has been around for more than 60 years and is a household name. Baskin Robbins hasn't been around as long, but it's also a household name. They're both synonymous with all things sweet. They both have loyal followings - young and old, and everyone in-between. Everything we do is centered around fun. Coming in with your family to get ice cream is fun. The experience of picking out a dozen donuts from a pastry case full of options - that's fun! You see the different colors, smell the different varieties - it's a complete sensory experience. I encourage our staff to approach their work with a fun, light-hearted attitude.
For our customers we want to provide variety and lots of options in our food, beverages and ice cream. Our bakers like to work with color; some are whimsical, others elegant and others kid-friendly. Our ice cream comes in a wide variety that includes a flavor of the month, along with lots of options for both kids and adults.
Variety, fun, and something for every palette - that's what we strive for at both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins.
2. How long has your franchise been in Jacksonville?
For about 3 years now.
3. How many stores are a part of your franchise group?
We have two combo stores in Jacksonville, which are free-standing, and contain both a Baskin Robbins and a Dunkin' Donuts. Our employees are all cross-trained on both the Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins products.
4. How many people work for you in Jacksonville?
About 45 people in our two locations.
5. How much of what you do is unique to your stores and how much incorporates what Dunkin' Donuts is doing as an overall brand?
For both brands there are varieties of donuts and ice creams that are made available across all stores. For example, during this Valentine's season, all Dunkin' Donuts locations will offer two of our specialty donuts: Cupid's Choice and Brownie Batter. We're also having a special heart shaped theme to our donuts as part of the Valentine's celebration. We'll be making all our filled donuts in heart shapes. We'll have special colors too. It's all part of the fun experience that makes up the Dunkin' Donuts culture. In addition to these seasonal themes there are the classics which people love and expect when they visit any Dunkin' Donuts store. These are things like our jelly donuts, our Bavarian cream, and our frosted donuts. So, as part of the Dunkin' Donuts chain we are sure to carry these items. Both monthly and seasonal varieties along with classic standards also apply to our Baskin Robbins ice cream offerings. As a local store we can also carry things that resonate with people in Jacksonville. For instance, the Jaguars are very popular in Jacksonville so we incorporate teal colors into our treats. We'll do football donuts for the Florida-Georgia game. Things that are sports oriented do very well in Jacksonville. Our French cruller donut isn't unique to Jacksonville but does especially well here. Same with our coconut donuts, such as our chocolate coconut donut. Another really popular donut in Jacksonville is our Butternut donut. It's a cake donut with chocolate frosting and peanuts sprinkled on top.
6. That's interesting. There seems to be a reluctance by many restaurants to carry anything with a peanut.
Food allergies are a hot topic in the food and beverage industry now. There are certain precautions we take such as having signs to let people know there are nuts being used. We also use a multi-tiered bakery case. Anything that might have an allergen in it, like coconut or peanuts, is kept on the bottom shelf away from other items. We then train our employees to be aware of everything that may contain an allergen. For example, German chocolate cake ice cream contains coconut, but not everyone may be aware of this. We make sure our employees are trained to let customers know there is coconut in that ice cream flavor when it's ordered. So, between the signs, our training, and how we separate out the items we make sure the environment is a healthy one.
7. How do you differentiate Dunkin' Donuts from places like McDonalds or Starbucks?
It's an extraordinarily competitive space that goes beyond just quick serve locations to include gas stations and convenience stores. And there are always new competitors coming along. We stand out as being iconic as an American brand. We have a long history that people are familiar and comfortable with. Our menu offering is also deep and wide, which is a strong part of its attractiveness. It provides an overall value based on great products, served quickly and easily in an accessible way. We serve coffee that's a favorite for many people. We combine that with sandwiches and something sweet, really covering the full meal experience in a way that expresses high quality. Guests perceive this as a step above what you'd get at many fast food restaurants. For sweet things in general, the assortment available is very wide compared to what you see at most places. We offer everything from a hearty cake donut, to a light and fluffy donut, with nuts, without nuts, with interesting colors or no colors, and everything in between. There's a huge assortment to appeal to every taste. We also bake everything in our store, including our bagels, breads, croissants, danishes, cookies - it's a full lineup of pastries - fresh, all day, every day. You just don't find that anywhere else. Places like Starbucks focus on coffee, but they don't bake their sweet goods in their stores and their assortments are much smaller. Freshness is really important to us, which is why we bake in the store, and we also carefully manage the shelf life of all our products to make sure everything is served fresh.
On the beverage side we have fantastic drip coffee, along with a full line of espresso drinks. We have lattes, hot chocolates, and Dunkaccinos, which are like a coffee-hot chocolate mix. We also have a dark chocolate lineup of drinks, so you can turn your coffee into a dark chocolate coffee drink or have a dark chocolate hot chocolate. We have frozen drinks like frozen coffees or fruit based frozen drinks.
And then there are the sandwiches, which have probably grown two-fold in the past three years. We have the DD Smart menu items which are lower calorie, lower fat menu items such as egg white flatbread sandwiches. You have an incredibly huge menu to choose from and available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. It's very difficult to find that anywhere else. That's not even including the Baskin Robbins offerings that can complement a meal or offer a standalone treat.
8. What have been some of the biggest changes to the menu over the past few years?
The menu has broadened a lot. We've added sandwiches like our turkey, bacon and cheddar sandwich, which has become very popular. It's on a French roll that we bake in-house. It comes with turkey, white cheddar cheese and bacon. And the sandwiches are all made to order. So they don't sit in plastic wrap or under a heat lamp. Even the oven system is new. We use the Turbo Chef system, which combines convection heat, microwave heat and infrared heat so that cooking is done evenly, quickly and all the way through, without drying the food out or making it taste rubbery. That technology is new and goes hand in hand with the new menu offerings. A lot of the pastries are new. The DD Smart menu of health focused items has also grown a lot.
9. Who's the audience for Dunkin' Donuts?
It's very, very broad. It's the bone and marrow of America - the working person who gets up every day, and wants to come in for a coffee or to get some food. That's our audience in a nutshell.
10. Is breakfast still the main focus for Dunkin' Donuts?
We're open 7x24 and our menu is available all day. So, we've moved from being associated mainly with breakfast to a place where people can come at all different times of the day. We're probably still busiest in the morning but we have a 7x24 audience that is more and more served by our growing menu. And because of Baskin Robbins we have an offering that accents or complements meals later in the day. So we get a lot of people who come by for a pastry or an ice cream after they've had supper.
11. What are the most popular items?
Each store has a different mix of favorites. For example, our store on University, which is between Philips Highway and Highway 95, is very beverage heavy. We sell a lot of lattes and cappuccinos. It's also the only store in Jacksonville to offer a cafe con leche. It's a sweetened espresso drink with steamed milk and no foam. It's similar to a latte and is very popular with our large Latino customer base. So, we sell a lot of beverages overall. Next in line is pastries and donuts, followed by sandwiches, and then ice cream. We also sell retail items such as coffee mugs, take home coffee, K-cups, T-shirts and things like that. Gift baskets are really popular around the holidays.
12. Let's talk about your University Boulevard store. You're going through a major re-modeling. Why is that?
We're remodeling both our locations, on University and Cassat Avenue. The re-modeling represents a significant upgrade. The basic layout is the same, but has some differences. On University we've added a new conference center. It's a room that's walled off with sound insulation in the walls to provide privacy. There's a conference table that comfortably seats 8-10. There's complimentary Wi-Fi, a 42" HD LCD-TV with Bluetooth AV connections so you can hook up your laptop or iPad. You can run business presentations, or watch TV. We have families who've booked the conference center to bring the family together for movie night. It's available for business meetings or fun events. It's been booked for at least part of every day since we've opened.
Our seating layout is entirely new. We feature booth seating, soft leather club chairs, donut tables, and new lobby tables. The cabinetry is new, as is the whole color palette. We've got a lot of new technology to support our team. We've also got really nice high definition menu boards that let us showcase the menu in a creative and entertaining way.
Interestingly, with all the new technology and new production methods for creating the pastries, and the fact that more things are baked now rather than being fried, it's not only much healthier, but it also takes up less space. So, what we've done is to create a tenant space in the University store that we'll lease as an office for tax preparation or car rentals, or something like that. That's a trend you'll see as other stores are remodeled as well.
13. Are you seeing more people using Dunkin' Donuts as a place to hang out or have business meetings?
Without a doubt! We encourage people to come by and relax or meet friends or business associates. Our internal tag line is "Make it your Dunkin'" and we try to let people feel like Dunkin' is a place they really can make their own. People like that. They like to know there's a place they can go to feel comfortable and welcome and that they can bring friends or business acquaintances to. We've added a new high tech music system and we're making the music a little more upscale and programmed to change during the day. We can have different music for different times of the day or different days altogether. So, for example, on Friday evening we can have cool lounge music playing, which you wouldn't hear on a Monday morning.
14. Are you finding people spending more time in the store?
Yes. I've been watching that evolve over time. I'm seeing the afternoon business grow, especially on the weekends, which didn't used to be the case as much. I love that! The remodels are more forward thinking, more comfortable, more cool - for lack of a better word. So people want to spend more time here.
15. Is the re-model the way forward for other Dunkin' Donuts stores?
I don't want to speak for the whole Dunkin' chain but we did our remodel in partnership with the corporate office. It's part of a test concept so far. It hasn't been rolled out widely yet but we have a lot of people coming through to take a look.
16. When is your official launch for the re-modeled store?
It's this Saturday, February 2nd, starting at 8am. It'll be a family event with a balance house, an obstacle course for kids, face painters, and someone making balloon animals. We'll offer samples of our new products. We just launched soft serve, which is new to Jacksonville and Baskin Robbins in general. We'll be offering samples of that. With the soft serve offering we have a line called 31 Below, which is a play on the 31 flavors of Baskin Robbins ice cream. It's soft serve with candy mixed in. You can choose Snickers, Butterfingers, Heath, M&Ms and so on. It's all blended together and is very good.
We firmly believe in giving to causes we care about, so during the opening we'll also have Donna Deegan joining us to give out samples of ice cream and soft serve from 2pm - 4pm Saturday afternoon. Donna runs the Donna Foundation which benefits breast cancer research and provides services to women with breast cancer. Her marathon, 26.2 with Donna, is coming up February 17th here in Jacksonville. A portion of this Saturday's proceeds from our University Avenue Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins will go to support the Donna Foundation.
17. Can you tell us about your background?
18. How long have you been working with Dunkin' Donuts?
About 3 years now.
19. What did you do before?
I was Director of Worldwide Public Relations for Electronic Arts, the world's largest maker of electronic entertainment and video games.
20. What attracted you to Dunkin' Donuts?
My partner's family have been franchisees for 28 years now. We wanted to try something different, and this is a fascinating business. The opportunity came up and allowed us to explore a new chapter of life. So we jumped in and it's been very interesting. We've been remodeling our existing stores and are looking to open about 5 new stores in 2013 in the Jacksonville and north Florida area.
21. What do you like most about the challenge of working at Dunkin' Donuts?
My favorite thing to do is to be in front of the counter interacting with people, talking to them, getting to know them. I see myself as a sort of hospitality director, making sure everyone is comfortable and their food is perfect. Meeting this wide range of diverse people is like a giant, really interesting sociology experiment.
22. What is it that people love so much about Dunkin' Donuts?
One of the reasons is generational. Dunkin' Donuts has been around for a long time and people have grown up with it. A lot of people have good memories of Dunkin' Donuts as a young child. I know I do. As a boy I'd get to go to Dunkin' Donuts to get a dozen donuts and that was a real treat. Generationally you now have genetic coding that predisposes people to Dunkin' Donuts. That's one way to look at it. Also, I think Dunkin's done a great job of listening to guests and giving them what they like while also developing new products based on what they know about their guests. They've listened and responded in a way that guests like. The brand has been working really hard for some time to raise its standards. The franchisees, the stores, and the guest experience are constantly evolving to be better and better. Dunkin' demands a lot of its franchisees and its stores. Where it is now is a good place. People like the quality. They come back for the speed and the personalities.
One thing that makes our particular franchise unique is that we look for 3 attributes in all of our employees when hiring and developing them. One, is the idea of being a hospitality director. We want every guest to feel like they've come over to their best friend's house and are having a great time. Two, is they are taste connoisseurs. I want all our employees to say the word "love" a lot - "I love this donut," "I love this because…". We have this one employee who loves chocolate and strawberry together, so she will talk about how she loves a milkshake made with Very Berry Strawberry and chocolate ice cream. I encourage people to find those things they love and talk about it - to communicate those tastes to the guest. And lastly, we want hand crafted experts. There are recipes on how everything is made - sandwiches, drinks, etc. I want everyone, as craftsmen, to make those things to recipe, to make them perfectly and how the guest likes it every time. I think if all our employees have those 3 attributes then we'll be a success and our guests will leave with their expectations met or exceeded.
23. What's next for your franchise?
Right now we're going through some feasibility studies and site selection exercises for new locations. It's funny, because if you're in the store a lot, people are always coming up and saying "you know where you should put a new store - I'm in Julington Creek or Bartram Park…" I hear that a lot and actually those are places we're looking at. It's still too early to tell but we should know soon.
24. Anything else?
Just that I'd love to encourage people to come and join our celebration this Saturday, February 2nd at our University store. We also have a Facebook page for Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins on University. We'd love for people to come and check us out and see all the interesting things going on there too.