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Dunkin' expands 'all-day' offerings

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Associated Press / February 13, 2008

Dunkin' Donuts, the coffee and baked goods chain synonymous with breakfast, is targeting the afternoon and evening crowds with new flatbread sandwiches and personal pizzas heated in convection ovens rather than microwaves.

The chain hopes the moves, to be revealed today, will improve food quality and bolster an expansion plan that's introducing Dunkin's pink-and-orange-themed restaurants far beyond the brand's Northeastern base.

Although Dunkin' has previously experimented with sandwiches, the 57-year-old chain is billing what it calls its "all-day, oven-toasted menu" as its biggest change since its launch of espresso drinks in 2003.

The goal is to even out sales throughout the 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. day maintained by most of the 5,400-plus stores in the United States. About two-thirds of sales come before noon, with most customers choosing snacks such as baked goods and breakfast sandwiches with coffee.

"It speaks to changing consumption trends, with people having a lot more occasions to graze, and consumers' desire to have what they want, when they want it," said Will Kussell, president and chief brand officer.

Dunkin's shift is in line with recent moves by lunch- and dinner-oriented fast-food chains to add breakfast offerings throughout the day, said Darren Tristano of Technomic Inc., a food industry consulting firm.

"Ideally, you're looking at how to increase store volume, and profitability," Tristano said. "For Dunkin, I think there's definitely going to be an investment cost up front. But if they can get over the initial cost, it will probably work for them in the long term."

Kussell declined to reveal the cost of replacing microwaves with convection ovens, which will take place throughout the chain, except in some small outlets offering limited menus. Dunkin' does not expect the ovens to increase the time needed to heat made-to-order sandwiches and pizzas, or delay flow of customers.

Canton-based Dunkin' also hopes the new ovens will boost customer satisfaction with breakfast sandwiches, since microwaving can create limp eggs and mushy bread.

But Dunkin' may find it difficult getting morning customers to return later in the day, said Sharon Zackfia, an analyst with William Blair & Co. in Chicago.

The chain's new flatbread sandwiches come in three varieties: turkey cheddar and bacon ($3.49); ham and Swiss ($3.49); and three cheese ($2.99). Five-inch supreme and pepperoni pizzas cost $2.99, while cheese pizzas cost $2.49.

Also new are hash browns in containers designed to fit into car cupholders.

The new foods were introduced starting last spring at test locations, and were expected to be available today in 3,500 locations nationwide. Another 2,000 or so US locations will have the expanded menu by spring, with locations in 30 foreign countries eventually making the transition.

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