It's the chain that thinks outside of Manhattan

For the eighth year in a row, Dunkin’ Donuts has been ranked the most ubiquitous chain in New York by the Center for an Urban Future’s annual “State of the Chains” report. The coffee and doughnut retailer now has 596 locations throughout the city, up from 572 in 2015 and 341 in 2008, according to the report. That’s markedly higher than Starbucks, which has 317 locations in New York, and McDonald’s, which has 217 locations. (Sadly, Tim Hortons now has just five locations around the city, down from 10 last year.) Why—or, perhaps more importantly, how—has Dunkin’ Donuts so outpaced the competition?

I’ve always felt that it was at least partly due to the chain’s pink and orange signage, which is soothing and has lured me off a Manhattan sidewalk many a time. (Starbucks logo has never appealed to me, and the golden arches of McDonald's have always seemed more insidious than inviting.) But there has to be more to the chain’s success than that, right? For more information, I reached out to Jonathan Bowles, the executive director of the Center for an Urban Future.

“I guess New Yorkers clearly love coffee and doughnuts,” Bowles told me in an email, going on to explain that Dunkin’ Donuts, along with other chains like Subway—the second largest national retailer in the city, with 433 locations—don't require large storefronts. “That makes it easier for them to expand in an expensive real estate market,” Bowles said.

A difference between Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, Bowles added, is that Dunkin’ Donuts stores are franchises. “Clearly, lots of entrepreneurs have seen opportunity in the Dunkin’ Donuts brand and have sought to open new stores all over the city,” he said.

Bowles also pointed out that 70 percent of all Starbucks stores in New York are in Manhattan, while only 26 percent of Dunkin’ Donuts stores are spread throughout that borough. “Dunkin’ Donuts’ strength is clearly in the boroughs outside of Manhattan,” Bowles said, noting that the chain has 179 stores in Queens alone.

“I guess because of its price point, it seems like Dunkin’ Donuts has managed to appeal to a much broader group of New Yorkers, including middle class residents and the working poor,” Bowles explained.