A Battle Is Brewing at Dunkin’ Donuts

1202225730When you walk into Dunkin’ Donuts, you’re generally too desperate for caffeine to consider who owns the store. But the odds are good that your corner Dunkin’ is a franchise. (And it might even be owned by former Red Sox second baseman Mark Bellhorn.)

Bellhorn and his ilk are required to follow the edicts of the corporate office (such as installing expensive convection ovens), not to mention that they pay various fees to the company.

While owning a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise sounds like it would mean endless free Boston Cremes and all the coffee you could drink, it isn’t that easy. A conflict has started between the corporate offices and franchisees over the decision to allow outside companies to distribute Dunkin’s coffee in 40,000 stores around the country.

A survey by Dunkin’ Donuts Independent Franchise Owners Inc. found that 95 percent of franchise owners were upset by the plan to allow Dunkin’s beans to be sold in grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Much like us, they are nervous that the company is pushing too far, too fast at the expense of its fanatical New England following.

“This could make sense in other parts of the country where there is less brand awareness, but here in New England where we have one store for every 6,000 people, it dilutes the brand,” [Owners group president Mark A. Dubinsky] said. “We’re taking coffee sales and moving them out of existing franchise stores.”

Dunkin’ Donuts told its the franchise owners to relax.

Steve Caldeira, chief global communications and public affairs officer for Dunkin’ Brands, said yesterday in a statement that the new partnerships “benefit all franchisees by building customer and brand loyalty in both existing and new markets.”

All we know is that if this plan affects our daily Dunkin’ intake, we won’t be happy.