The hole story: a history of Dunkin’ Donuts in Britain

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.

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