The Rise of Dunkin’ Donuts in Beijing

The pink frosted donut parted between my teeth as I brought up my jaw, simultaneously chewing and guiding the pastry into my mouth. It was sugary and soft and vaguely tasted of strawberries. Mostly it was really sweet.

Recently there has been a surge of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shops opening in Beijing. 

Perhaps the best part about eating Dunkin’ Donuts in China is the logo. When I see the two D’s pasted against brown and pink backgrounds it reminds me of driving from New Hampshire to Logan Airport in Boston.

Actually I have never really enjoyed Dunkin’ Donuts back home. Their coffee is watered down and donuts are too sweet. I think I stopped eating them after I turned nine years old.

I remember the first time I went to Dunkin’ Donuts in China. It was in Shanghai’s Hong Qiao airport and I ordered a coffee coolatta out of nostalagia. I remember the dread I felt, lifting the lid to my mouth, only to have it spill all over me and the floor.

They were kind enough to give me a refill but I didn’t have a change of clothes. I was traveling on business alone and only had a small rolling suitcase with me at the time. So I sat there, alone, trying to remember why I had decided against Starbucks.

Going to cafes in China is quite interesting. Because of the odd dynamic between old and new they have become somewhat of a haven for people looking for a more relaxing atmosphere. Unlike in America, where many places are relaxing and a good place for a conversation, coffee shops in China seem to have sprouted like the water shooting from killer whale’s blow hole.

However, Dunkin Donuts success in China has not mirrored competitors such as Starbucks or Costa Coffee. It seems to have had a fairly rough time and just three years since the coolata incident at Hong Qiao airport I am beginning to see them enter again into the fray.

In the past year or so they have opened up three Dunkin Donuts in Wudaokou, Houshayu Plaza, and U-Town mall. Furthermore these shops are noticeably different from the “hole in the wall” airport location. It really seems like they have rebranded and altered the menu (very important for success in China).

Anyways, I am not a businessperson but I do think DD has serious potential in China. The novelty of their donuts and childish branding could spin well with Chinese customers. It just needs to hit that fine line between luxury and Chinese that can be so elusive.

Personally I have started frequenting the local DD near my apartment in Wudaokou weekly. Interestingly enough it seems to have been very popular initially with foreigners (mostly students probably feeling tired of the hum-drum blandness of Starbucks). However each week I tend to see more and more locals there.

The tides could be turning on this one and I have my fingers crossed. I suppose you always have to route for the home team (remember DD is most popular in the Northeast of America). Besides, it seems that the coffee they make here is much stronger than back home.

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