Dunkin’s Run: A Love Story

Since opening the doors of its original shop 60 years ago, Dunkin’ Donuts has grown into an international juggernaut. Here’s why Bostonians don’t hold that against it.

BILL ROSENBERG WAS EAGER to grow his young company. In 1955 he signed an agreement with a Worcester businessman to open the first Dunkin’ franchise. Dozens more would soon follow, but the relationship between franchisees and the corporate office would sometimes get tense in the decades to come. To guarantee consistent quality from franchisees, Rosenberg developed rigorous standards; the specifications for coffee beans alone stretched to 94 pages.

Ann Rosenberg: Bill didn’t drive past a Dunkin’ Donuts. He had to stop and try the food, and then he would write a report to headquarters.

Kevin McCarthy, former Operations VP, Dunkin’: When he was around, he was in charge. Sometimes the franchisee would come out from the back room and there’d be this huge guy throwing all the doughnuts out.

Robert Demery, former Dunkin’ franchisee: Before I became a franchisee I was a night baker at the store in Natick. One morning this guy comes storming in the door — it was Bill Rosenberg. He didn’t like the doughnuts, and he dumped them out. Scared the hell out of everybody. “Don’t let the customers pay for our mistakes,” he said. That stayed with me a long time.

Ann Rosenberg: But Bill tore most of his hair out because of the coffee.

Corby Kummer, Boston food critic, author of The Joy of Coffee: When I was growing up in Connecticut in the late ’60s, Dunkin was an improvement over most home coffee. The fact that they threw it out after 18 minutes and didn’t let it sit on the burner was, in itself, a giant leap.

Jim Coen, president of a Dunkin’ franchisees’ association: People always ask, “How does Dunkin’ brew the same coffee everywhere?” It’s a science, and they’ve perfected it — to make sure it’s brewed at the right temperature and in the exact right method. No human hands touch the water; it goes directly into the filtration system.

Schwarz: The beans are delivered to the stores dated. They can’t use them 10 days beyond that date.

George Zografos, franchisee: We’re made up of three different blends: Colombian, Brazilian, and a Guatemalan mix. It’s always been the same.

Bob Rosenberg: We had to convince dairies to make fresh cream just for us — very few, if any, restaurants or supermarket customers used cream with such a high butterfat content. That’s all I want to say. I’m not anxious to educate our competitors about this part of the “special sauce.”

Schwarz: It’s 18 percent butterfat content. The cream really does make a difference.

Nigel Travis, CEO, Dunkin’: We’ve had the same coffee recipe since 1950.  

  • Scott

    We all grew up on the sunday morning runs for fresh donuts, but that certainly is not their biz today. Donuts are made in a factory and just plain horrible. Most folks are just addicted to the caffeine these days to combat the no sleep they’re getting, aren’t they?

  • Robin

    Loved the article and also enjoyed the on-air interview on WRKO. I lived in Boston as a student in the 60′s! DD is the best and I will go no where else to buy my coffee and/or donuts! Thanks for the great article Francis! Long live DD!

  • Mike