Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Dunkin'

When a customer opens the door to any Dunkin' location, the aroma of coffee, donuts, muffins, and bagels is likely the first thing they'll notice upon a morning visit — followed by the vibrant orange and pink decor, and merchandise repping the bubbly Dunkin' logo. The popular coffee and donut chain has grown to over 11,000 locations since its opening in 1950 and takes pride in serving more than 3 million customers every day with the help of its 270,000 employees worldwide (per the official website and The Boston Job Source). But, what is it like to be one of the employees, who serve each and every customer in need of their morning caffeine or pastry fix? If you're looking to join a Dunkin' team, it may be beneficial to keep reading on as former and current employees reveal what it's really like to be behind the counter at Dunkin'.

A normal Dunkin' shift includes busy mornings

Mashed recently spoke with former employee Courtney Henderson-Adams, who worked as a crew member on the morning shift at the Piney Orchard location in Odenton, Maryland for a year and a half. Often working with the same crew of people, she estimates they helped close to 50 people in a matter of two hours every morning, serving them anything from an iced coffee to a dozen donuts, allowing for an extremely busy and hectic morning. 

"The mornings were stressful. You have a very small amount of time to get each order out and there's usually a line out to the road," she says. "Evenings are much slower. There's only two or three people working the shift, compared to the six or seven in the morning. Not a lot of people are coming in for coffee, sandwiches, or donuts."

Henderson-Adams isn't the only one who says the mornings are rough for employees. Mashed also spoke with former Canton, Ohio employee Athena Pantelides who worked as a shift manager for almost a year and describes the environment as very high stress, stating the job can be difficult because you have to be extremely quick, with there being very little room for mistakes. 

Surprisingly, statistics show 36% of customers make their purchases in the afternoon, as opposed to 17% in the morning and 19% at noon (per Numerator).

Learning the Dunkin' menu is easy

Although Dunkin' can be a high-stress environment in the morning, learning the menu is surprisingly easy and many of the menu items include the same ingredients with just one or two switched out, both former employees say. For example, a Turkey Sausage, Egg & Cheese sandwich from the company can easily be traded for a Ham, Egg & Cheese sandwich by simply putting ham instead of turkey sausage on the sandwich, and a Power Breakfast Sandwich is just a Veggie Egg White Omelet with turkey sausage. 

Coffees are mostly made with a machine where employees press buttons for sugar and milk, but if the coffee drinks come with syrup, it's simply based on a ratio. Smalls are two pumps, mediums are three, and larges four. As for the donuts, they come fresh on a truck every morning, ready for the employees to stock them up behind the counter. 

"They were made at a factory every day and then transported to our location," Henderson-Adams says. "The truck would come every morning and we would take this tall thing filled with trays of the donuts and put them out. They were always fresh in the morning. They came iced, sprinkled, powdered, and filled. We would just put them out." 

At the end of the day, the donuts are thrown out or taken home by employees, so the next morning customers can enjoy freshly made ones without having to worry about staleness. 

Dunkin' workers are diverse

One thing Henderson-Adams and Pantelides agree on is that they were able to work alongside all different types of people with diversity among the employees in each location. 

"You work with all types of people," Pantelides says. "[It's] Very much a mix of people." Henderson-Adams added that the diversity among her coworkers allowed her insight into different cultures and ideas, noting her favorite thing was no matter where they came from or who they were, her coworkers had her back when it came to difficult customers or busy days. "Working with these people, it's literally like your family," Henderson-Adams says. "You really are able to bond with a diverse group of people and learn about things from a different perspective than your own."

Dunkin' Brands' emphasis on diversity and fairness has earned them a 100% scoring on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies and practices in 2019 and 2020 (per the Dunkin' Brands website).

Dunkin' employees get free food and drinks

One bonus to working at any location is employees are able to indulge in free or discount-priced food and drink. Based on Glassdoor reviews, numerous employees reported having this benefit with many of them stating their Dunkin' location allowed free food and drinks. 

"We got coffee and it began my coffee addiction," Henderson-Adams told us. "I loved the craft of making the coffee, as well. When people would order a weird mix of flavors, it was art, so being able to try out different flavors at a discount, sometimes even free, really allowed me to explore what I liked."

Employees are also able to earn tips, which are added up at the end of each shift and divided between the workers. Henderson-Adams says she was able to take home anywhere from five to 25 dollars each shift with people tipping more during the Christmas season. 

Dunkin' often only has one worker for each station

Despite gaining food and drink benefits, Dunkin' employees have reported often being understaffed (per Glassdoor reviews), with only one worker for each station. Former Massillon, Ohio employee Keith Evans told Mashed usually there was one person taking orders, another employee making orders, an employee running the front register, and another one prepping. Henderson-Adams agreed there were only enough workers to cover each station, rarely allowing for call-offs and the short-staff usually meant longer hours for employees, with a 9-10 hour shift earning only a 30-minute break. 

"They expect you to work these long shifts and there's no work-life balance, at all," she says. "They refused to hire more people and it was the same people working every shift, so there was no one to call in." If you're looking to keep busy, it seems like Dunkin' can certainly meet that request. Henderson-Adams told us she often worked six days a week during the summer, up to 60 hours, beginning at 6 a.m.

The Dunkin' drive-through window is timed

To make things even more stressful for the employees during busy mornings, the drive-thru window is timed at 35 seconds, says Pantelides, who often looked at the timer as a challenge. With 59 percent of traditional Dunkin' locations having a drive-thru (per QSR) and On-the-Go Ordering, it's pretty likely employees will have to deal with the Dunkin' drive-thru at one point or another, as they rotate between each station. 

"It was the most important thing to keep track of. Everyone was on edge and you have to get every order right," Henderson-Adams says. "If you got the order wrong, that means they would have to wait longer and the clock would start going into red and it could set everything back. You have to keep it in the green. It would change colors if the car was sitting at the window for too long."

One minute is considered too long to get an order out to a customer, so employees sometimes ask a customer with a larger or more difficult order to pull up to avoid getting behind, a trick that allows the clock at the window to restart the time as the next customer reaches the window. 

Upper management can be difficult

In a fast-paced workplace, employees have to be on top of everything and make sure they're not slowing down their team members or the customers. Because of this, managers can be very strict and put a lot of pressure on the employees to get things done, despite a short staff and busy lines. Pantelides admits she was a strict manager during her time at Dunkin', but says it usually depends on the manager. 

"Some managers can take everything way too seriously," Henderson-Adams adds. "I had one who was very on top of the timer for the drive-through and everyone would be super on edge because of it. They were a manager who I could totally be friends with, but it was difficult to work with them. Upper management was much worse."

Complaints about upper management are frequent in Dunkin' reviews. From harassment complaints to issues with district management and corporate (per Indeed), many employees have found their higher-ups to be difficult, with one reviewer stating, "No breaks allowed, overworked and under staffed, upper management doesn't help or care about individuals/individual stores in their franchise." 

Not all reviews were negative though. Plenty of employees also praised their management in their reviews, with many stating their managers made their jobs easier. 

Mistakes are often ridiculed by customers

One thing that all three employees noticed during their time at Dunkin', was that it was often the older customers who ridiculed mistakes. Henderson-Adams notes whenever there was a mistake, oftentimes the Millennial and Gen Z generations would calmly tell the employees when something wasn't correct. It was often the older customers, however, who were the ones having meltdowns and yelling at the employees about an incorrect drink order or a missing sandwich. 

"Your usual customer is very in and out," Henderson-Adams says. "But, when there was a mistake, it was always the older customers who were so angry if we got their coffee or sandwich wrong." Demographics from Numerator show a majority of customers range from 45 to over 65 years of age.

In a Reddit post about working at the franchise, one employee said that they often had rude customers, though they didn't specify whether the customers were older or younger.  "Most of our customers are rude, some are pleasant, others neutral," the employee told Reddit. "We get hollered at in front of customers daily. Almost Nobody ever stays long after they're hired."   

Dunkin's satisfactory rating with employees has slipped

As we've pointed out, working at Dunkin' can be stressful. This could be why the brand's employee score has slipped. Dunkin' Donuts previously had an employer rating of 3.4 on Glassdoor and 54% of employees would recommend the job to a friend. As of May 2021, though, the ratings have dropped, with the employer rating now at a 3.3 and only 51% of employees saying they would recommend the job to a friend. 

In looking at Glassdoor reviews from both current and previous employees, complaints about a short staff, difficult customers, and low pay take hold as some of the highest cons. Although many reference the free food and drinks as a pro, multiple reviews suggest being overworked, while only making between $9 and $13.75 an hour. With teamwork highly needed in such a fast-paced environment, it can be difficult when the locations are understaffed and struggling to manage such a high workload. "It's a lifestyle when you're not working there and you're on the outside and can actually enjoy it, but on the inside, it's hell," Henderson-Adams says.

It is important to note all locations differ from each other in the management, customer, benefits, and pay quality. The experience you may get working at one Dunkin' could be a much different one from working at another.