Dunkin’ plans British invasion. Will donuts and joe take a bite out of tea and scones?

Photo taken from Dunkin’s website.
Photo taken from Dunkin’s website.

Dunkin’ Donuts, which has toasted the royal family with baked-goods tributes on several of the family’s red letter occasions, now looks to bring Munchkins and coffee to a country long known for tea and scones.

Canton-based Dunkin’ Donuts said Thursday that it has signed agreements with two franchise groups to begin developing Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the United Kingdom.

The two agreements call for the development of 50 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in Greater London over the next five years, with an initial focus on North London and East London, the company said.

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Shortly after Dunkin’s parent company, Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., was bought for $2.425 billion in 2006 by a consortium of private equity firms made up of Bain Capital Partners LLC, the Carlyle Group, and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, the company disclosed plans for ambitious expansion plans. Part of that plan called for expanding from about 5,000 US locations in 2006 to 15,000 by 2020, and a couple of weeks ago, Dunkin’ announced that it had signed its first Southern California multi-unit store development agreements with four franchise groups for a total commitment of 45 new restaurants.

The thinking seems to be that if only folks around the country and abroad had easy access to its menu line-up, Dunkin’ Donuts would be as popular elsewhere as it is in its home territory of the New England.

In a statement Thursday, meanwhile, Giorgio Minardi, president of Dunkin’ Brands International, said: “We feel there is significant opportunity for Dunkin’ Donuts in the UK, and we have had a tremendous response from potential franchisees interested in developing the brand across the country. We are especially excited to begin the expansion of Dunkin’ Donuts into the UK with the Court Group and DDMG Ltd., two experienced franchisees who have a deep passion for the brand and a solid understanding of the local market. We look forward to working with them to make Dunkin’ Donuts’ high-quality beverages, baked goods, and sandwiches part of the way of life in the UK.”

Dunkin’ Donuts currently has more than 10,500 restaurants in 31 countries around the world, including more than 100 locations across Europe in Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, and Spain.

Dunkin’s sister brand, the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain, currently has 100 locations in the UK, Dunkin’ said in its release.

Under previous ownership, Dunkin’ Donuts did have some UK locations up until the mid 1990s, but the exited the market because it didn’t have the regional infrastructure to grow and expand.

In those days, Dunkin’ Donuts was mostly about breakfast, and restaurants did much of their business before 11 a.m. But more recently, the chain has put more of a focus on beverages, all-day snacking, and better-for-you menu items.