top view cold Ice coffee with fresh coffee on a wooden background

For the fourth year in a row, and as they’re already putting on their party hats to celebrate a 60th birthday, Dunkin’ Donuts has won another award.

According to QSR, “in the coffee restaurant and packaged coffee categories, consumer preferences were based on consistently meeting customer expectations for taste, quality, service, and brand value.” Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys congratulated Dunkin’ Donuts explaining their success as having “developed an extremely loyal fan base by creating real emotional engagement between their brand and the consumer.”

a bunch of hands reaching for donuts at the same time with a coffee cup in the image

Dunkin’ Donuts’ main competition is Starbucks (coffee) and Krispy Kreme (doughnuts) here in the United States. Starbucks recently launched a “blonde roast” which competes with Dunkin’s everyday light, slightly sweet 100% Arabica bean brew, but Dunkin’ has still won the battle in customer loyalty.

And that’s well deserved, considering that their market penetration is slightly less than Starbucks, their largest competitor (around 17,003 stores). Krispy Kreme only has around 699 stores and Dunkin Donuts itself currently operates around 10,083 stores which includes all franchises.

So what makes customers of Dunkin’ Donuts so loyal? Here’s a bit of speculation with regard to the customer loyalty concepts that make Dunkin so great — and of course, how to improve your restaurant customer service.

1. DD is more affordable

The running joke about gourmet coffee shops is the $5 cup of coffee. In recent years Dunkin’ Donuts has raised prices according to the cost of beans, but they still remain the most economical choice in the minds of drive-thru coffee lovers. Their price also supports the next few branding choices.

2. DD is more accessible

If you’ve ever been to a Dunkin’ Donuts in the suburbs on a Sunday morning, you’ve witnesses twenty cars in the drive-thru line and an empty parking lot. Why? Convenience. Unless you’re picking up breakfast sandwiches for the whole soccer team, Dunkin’ Donuts is the to-go coffee place, and a major percent of their locations have a drive-thru.

Loyal regulars spend 67% more at restaurants than new guests do. With effective guest communication, you can make every guest a loyal regular.

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Homemade Iced Coffee on a table with a spoon in a mason jar

3. DD is more relatable

While some consider a coffee shop the destination in itself, the average Dunkin’ Donuts customer considers it a pit-stop on the way to their way-more-important destination. Since 2007, the Dunkin Donuts tagline has been America Runs on Dunkin’. The message is that we all live busy lives and Dunkin’ Donuts provides the simple and easy quick pick-me-up in between tasks. They don’t want the suits, (Starbucks already has them), they want the much larger population of middle class people—the 99% if you will.

Part of reaching out to a larger population is making sure all your guest are happy, even during the summer for those iced coffee lovers. Click here to read about how to keep your guests happy when the lines are long.

4. DD is non-exclusive

There’s no order-anxiety at Dunkin’ Donuts; everything is in plain english. For example, even though the Coffee Coolatta has been around for 15 years, they recently updated the packaging on their cups to read “Frozen Coffee Coolatta”. They’ve taken shots at Starbucks for their less-than-obvious-jargon-filled ordering process, which to some feels like an exclusive club. Clearly, Dunkin’ Donuts has a target audience: the guy/gal who just wants to get his/her coffee and get out.

Want to keep your loyalty program non-exclusive? Learn more here.

5. DD is simple

Some people like a burger with ketchup and mustard and others want a veggie burger topped with mashed potatoes and truffle oil. Both sound oddly rewarding, but one is easier to order and less risky. By sticking with the classics, Dunkin’ Donuts can get the right order to the right customer in the right amount of time.

Want to drive some customer loyalty? Download the Restaurant Loyalty guide today!

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Insights from and on the restaurant industry. Curated by the content team at Upserve.