“Look, they’ve got the largest [espresso] share in the industry,” Hoffmann said of Starbucks. “But it’s more about us being the best Dunkin’. There are a lot of competitors in this space and we think if we go after the best espresso, and we have the machines and training and the people to deliver against that, we think that’s the best place we can be. If you combine that with the best place in the marketplace at the speed of Dunkin’, we think that’s tough to beat ... Whether that’s [Starbucks] or any of the players in the espresso space. We think this is an area that we have to play in.”
Meredith Morris, Dunkin’s senior manger of consumer insights, said that while guests want to leisurely sit around and sip lattes in theory, the image doesn’t always fit into their busy, on-the-go lifestyles. “Espresso gives you energy while you are on the run,” she said.
Speed and price were essential, but so was quality. Dunkin’ reengineered its espresso recipe, first introduced in 2003. The new offering has more coffee, less water, and is brewed at a lower temperature. The result is a richer, fuller drink that’s forward on coffee taste and less on bitter notes. In the past, Dunkin’s espresso was mostly ordered to add into drinks. This version can—and Dunkin’ suggests just that—be sipped on its own or included in a handful of fresh offerings.
- Iced Americano: Double shot of espresso with water.
- Iced Cappuccino: Espresso beans blended with milk and served over ice.
These arrive nationwide November 19, and are really just the start of Dunkin's innovation process.
Dunkin’ is also testing a Flat White, which combines two shots with steamed milk. Planned for 2019, Dunkin’ expects to launch Affogatos at co-branded Baskin-Robbins stores. Classic vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of the espresso.
Dunkin’ isn’t trying to mask the espresso as it might have in the past. “This is a huge opportunity for us to grab share,” Weisman said.
Patel called it a “360-degree culture change,” at the store level, but one that’s been overwhelmingly embraced by crew members.
Dunkin’ said 50 percent of people who visit Starbucks also go somewhere else during the week, whether that’s a local shop or some other chain. So why not Dunkin’? In the past that probably had something to do with the lack of espresso options and the specialty-drink quality perception.
Changing that was more than just a mental and training shift for Dunkin’—it required serious capital on the equipment front. The brand installed new machines across its system and conducted 4–5 hour training sessions per location. Employees become espresso certified, and there’s an online class where they can demonstrate their proficiency.