Dunkin’ Donuts has failed in the British market twice. Will it succeed on its third attempt?
1965 – 1968
Dunkin’ Donuts announced plans to establish a chain of 250 shops across Britain in 1965. The first outlet was opened at Ludgate Circus, London in October 1965. The venture was a “flop” according to The Economist, and the operation entered into liquidation in 1968.
1988 – 1999
The second attempt began in 1988. Somewhat frivolously, its British head office was at 48 Carnaby Street, London. Four outlets were opened in the Birmingham area, with a bakery at Leamington Spa. Six Dunkin’ Donuts (including a 24-hour branch in Glasgow) and a bakery in Livingston were established in Scotland. The plan was to open 100 outlets, with a focus on the London area. The outlets and bakeries were all closed down in 1999, after continuously losing money.
During its second attempt, Dunkin’ Donuts was actually owned by a British company, Allied Domecq, which has substantial knowledge of the local property and catering markets, as the owner of J Lyons (including the Wimpy burger chain) and 3,500 pubs.
2013 to present
Dunkin’ Donuts returned to Britain in 2013. Management may have been encouraged by the success of rival doughnut retailer Krispy Kreme. The chairman and chief executive of Dunkin’ Donuts in America is also a Brit. But Krispy Kreme clearly presents itself as a premium priced “treat”, whereas the Dunkin’ Donuts model is more of a value proposition akin to Greggs.
So Dunkin’ Donuts has entered the UK market, with two locations so far, and plans for expansion to 100 outlets in five years. The locations of the first two outlets, Harrow and Chelmsford (with plans for a third in Cambridge) make me feel confident about the chances for the chain’s future success in the UK. Not too flashy, with low rents. The mistake of many US food chains has been to occupy high profile central London outlets, with very high rents, and this rarely works out. This lack of arrogance on the part of DD may seem refreshing, but their humility stems from the fact that this is their third attempt to crack the UK market.
Despite media claims about the “battle of the donuts”, Krispy Kreme will not be DD’s major rival in the UK. DD will compete primarily with Greggs, supermarkets, McDonald’s, and to a lesser extent the likes of Costa and Starbucks. Greggs is the company that has the most to fear from DD’s expansion, although Greggs is a wily competitor. Greggs did not emerge as the sole national bakery chain by falling asleep at the helm.
DD’s main customer base will be commuters, particularly during the lunchtime period. I haven’t been a DD either in the UK or elsewhere, so I can’t comment specifically on the food quality, but as it looks to be similar to McDonald’s and Greggs standard. If this is a case, it will be difficult for DD to succeed without matching their competitor’s prices. Due to its obvious initial cost disadvantage to its competitors due to its lack of scale, DD’s American parent company will have to be prepared to absorb sustained losses for at least a few years before the chain becomes profitable. The question is, how badly to DD want to gain a slice of the UK market?