"We've got enough to do"

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated February 13, 2018
EC: Dunkin’ Donuts Doesn't F— with the Third Wave Coffee Trend
Credit: Photo by RyanJLane via Getty Images

If you start your mornings with single-origin pour over coffee, you shouldn’t wait for Dunkin' Donuts. The company's CEO, Nigel Travis, recently spurned the practice of treating coffee as an artisanal food product, also known as the “third wave” of coffee. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Travis maintained that his brand would not participate in elevating coffee drinking. Instead, Dunkin’ will be placing their efforts on expansion, both in terms of launching stores outside the Northeast and increasing their portfolio of consumer packaged goods like K-Cup pods.

"We've got enough to do," Travis told BuzzFeed News. His staunch opposition to the third wave trend is likely fueled by competitor Starbucks’s participation in the movement. Although Starbucks was founded on the notion of selling coffee made from the highest-quality beans—a seemingly third-wave ideal—the franchise staked a claim in coffee’s second wave, where “coffee culture” emerged from the massive increase of consumers going out for coffee. Dunkin’ Donuts, on the other hand, remains committed to first-wave traditions, where coffee is an affordable, fast, caffeinated beverage to be drunk, and (aside from a few viral Coolattas) that’s all it is. Travis said that he "can say categorically, you won't be seeing a high-end roastery coming from us"—a jab at Starbucks’s upscale Reserve coffee bars.

I have to wonder if Dunkin’ Donuts would actually participate in the third-wave coffee movement if they wanted to? A report recently published by Nasdaq suggests that Dunkin’ Donuts will be holding fast to their first-wave roots and second-wave market trends to improve future sales. Dunkin' will launch new enterprises that reinforce the company's association with being a fast and cheap coffee option, often to be enjoyed on the go, like a partnership with Amtrak and doubling down on their consumer goods. Part of Dunkin’ Donuts’s new six-part plan for improvement also involves building their coffee culture and improving their core menu.

If Dunkin’ Donuts wanted to rethink the way their coffee beans are sourced and processed, it would require a complete reorganization of their current company direction. "I don't want our people to be deflected by worrying about the beans of the roastery, the pricing,” said Travis. "That would be a complete deflection for us, so I have been very clear that we're not doing it."

Sourcing and roasting practices won’t change for Dunkin’, but it’s not like they’re steering clear of every elevated niche coffee trend. As of May 30, Dunkin’ Donuts debuted a nitro coffee at select locations, echoing last year’s launch of cold brew. Perhaps it’s all just for the publicity.