With the growing coffee culture in the United States, the Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ Donuts comparisons are heating up, particularly as each chain has its share of fans. But while these coffee-centric eatery chains offer many similar coffee options, they also have different food options, clientele type, and branding strategies.
Breadth of Influence
Starbucks may be younger by 20 years than Dunkin’ Donuts but it has grown more aggressively resulting in it being the substantially larger – and more lucrative – company. In 2018, for example, Starbucks earned $24.7 billion representing an increase of 10% from last year’s revenue. In contrast, Dunkin’ Donuts only earned $1.32 billion in revenue, an increase of just 3.6% from the previous year.
There’s also the matter of the number of locations for each chain. Where Starbucks has more than 28,200 locations worldwide, Dunkin’ Donuts has over 20,500 restaurants globally. Even in the United States, Starbucks leads the competition with about 14,000 locations while Dunkin’ Donuts has almost 9,200 locations.
Type of Clientele
In terms of brand recognition, we can say that Starbucks has a higher brand recall than Dunkin’ Donuts, especially among consumers who want a wider range of coffee-based drinks. Furthermore, Starbucks is often viewed as the more upscale of the two brands, a perception partly brought by Hollywood stars being photographed with their Starbucks drinks.
Such a perception can also be attributed to the overall design of Starbucks locations wherein the comfort of customers is foremost. The warm and welcoming yet sophisticated interiors encourage customers to actually stay, read and relax, or chat with friends. Indeed, the Starbucks experience isn’t just about the eating and drinking but, more importantly, about socialization!
Starbucks coffee shops aren’t just about buying your favorite coffee drinks either. These are also about enjoying a premium experience where Internet access is free, and people are in it to be seen as well as to see, so to speak. Think of Starbucks as a destination and you will get the idea, and it’s reinforced by the type of customers often seen in it – people who usually have a higher disposable income who are willing to pay for the premium experience.
Dunkin’ is also different from Starbucks in terms of its overall décor – it has a more fast-food feel with plastic tables and chairs in many locations. Even its furnishings are reminiscent of fast-food giants like McDonald’s, a strategy in line with its more affordable prices.
Food and Drinks Line-up
Both beverage companies should then be judged based on their coffee, the main product. In terms of strength of a regular cup of coffee, Starbucks coffee has a stronger mouth-feel and flavor while Dunkin’ coffee seems watered-down in comparison. Thus, your choice between the two brands will depend on your personal preference in a cup of java.
Dunkin’ Donuts, which has recently rebranded itself as simply Dunkin’, markets itself as a beverage company specializing in coffee. But it also offers food, from sandwiches to donuts, the latter of which it has established a good reputation worldwide.
In recent years, nonetheless, Dunkin’ has offered non-traditional food choices for the breakfast crowd; not all of its locations, however, offer these food choices (i.e., the menu depends on the regional location). Among these non-traditional food options are steaks and sandwiches served in heartier portions.
Starbucks started as a coffee-centric company but it has also added more food products through the years, said additions of which were made to attract the afternoon and evening crowds. The menu today features small plates and sandwiches that complement the drinks menu, especially the coffee-based drinks.
Starbucks wins the battle where the food options are concerned. While we love the donuts at Dunkin’, these can be too sweet for our taste buds; the sandwiches and bagels are okay but these aren’t as good as the ones we enjoy from, say, Subway and traditional bagel shops, respectively.
In contrast, the baked goods at Starbucks have just the right flavor, texture and consistency. We especially liked the iced lemon loaf, cake pops, and chocolate croissants.
Going back to the drinks, we prefer Starbucks’ special-flavored drinks because of their balance of flavors and wide variety. Try the salted caramel mocha and the peppermint mocha. Plus, there’s also the fact that you can customize your drink in whatever way you want, a luxury that Dunkin’ doesn’t really provide its customers.
Between Frappuccino and Coolatta, we prefer the former because of its stronger coffee flavor. But if you aren’t big on coffee, then the latter drink is a great alternative.
For the hot chocolate drinks, Starbucks offers a slightly bitter drink that we think appeals to the dark chocolate fans. But if you’re more of the sweet chocolate type, then go for the Dunkin’ hot chocolate.
And then there’s the price. We suggest Starbucks if you want the upscale experience complete with baristas who know their stuff and Dunkin’ if you’re on a budget.
Which is the better option between Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts? Well, it’s up to you! Perhaps you can buy your coffee at Starbucks and your donuts at Dunkin’ and it’s alright.