Focusing On This Drink Changed Dunkin' Forever

Commuters everywhere are familiar with Dunkin', the iconic coffee and doughnut franchise that has been serving up caffeinated beverages and delicious pastries since 1950. Originally founded as Open Kettle in Quincy, Massachusetts, by a man named William Rosenberg, the company soon changed its brand name to Dunkin' Donuts in an effort to depict customers dunking their doughnuts into their coffee. (Side note: Do people actually do this?!)

The legendary doughnut-and-coffee shop has introduced a wide variety of treats, eats, and sips to its menu since its inception: Munchkins, breakfast sandwiches, bagels, muffins, frozen Coolatta drinks, green tea-infused Refreshers, and many more. And while these products have certainly helped expand the Dunkin' customer base by appealing to a range of palates and preferences, the central money makers all boil down to the basics that started it all. How has Dunkin' remained so triumphant all this time? (Hint: It's not just the food.)

What product made Dunkin' so successful?

In 2003, Dunkin' Donuts appointed a new chief executive officer, Jon Luther. Luther, who previously served as president of Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, knew a thing or two about reviving brands to be even more successful. As a savvy businessperson who pays close attention to consumer trends and behaviors, Luther understood that people rely on coffee to kickstart their mornings and get them through the day. With this insight, one of Luther's main objectives as leader was to shift the company's focus from doughnuts and other baked goods to its top selling product since Day 1: coffee.

In 2006, a few years into his reign, the "America Runs on Dunkin'" campaign launched, nodding to the fact that many Americans — workers, students, homemakers, retirees, and everyone in between — drink their morning fuel to feel motivated, productive, and energized. As part of the fresh brand image, the menu added premium espresso beverages and the stores were renovated to narrow their focus on coffee. Over the next seven years, the company doubled its number of stores around the globe and sales skyrocketed by 66%, reports Mental Floss. The Dunkin' Donuts brand officially dropped the "Donuts" from its name in January 2019, simply becoming known as Dunkin', with the goal of positioning itself as a future-focused, beverage-based retailer (via NPR).