Matt Glynn writes in the Buffalo News that Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins are familiar names to American consumers.
But customers can also sip a coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Indonesia, or grab an ice cream cone at a Baskin-Robbins in India. The two chains have thousands of stores in more than 40 countries, stretching far beyond their U.S. roots.
Expanding the two chains internationally takes careful preparation and research, to ensure customers in those countries will embrace them, said Jon L. Luther, executive chairman of parent company Dunkin’ Brands.
Lots of countries have an affinity for Western brands, he said, but a chain can’t simply import the U.S. version of its business and expect it will work.
Success depends on understanding everything from the local culture and real estate to consumer habits and the stability of the government, Luther said. “All those things come into play,” he said.
Luther, who graduated from Kenmore East High School, will talk about the global plan for Dunkin’ Brands when he speaks Oct. 20 at World Trade Celebration as a keynote speaker.
“He brings with him a local flair and also understands our region,” said Christopher Johnston, president of World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, the event host.
Luther, who is based in Massachusetts, was named chief executive officer of Dunkin’ Brands in 2003. He added the title of chairman in 2006. In 2009, Luther moved into the role of executive chairman.
Dunkin’ Donuts has more than 2,600 stores in 30 countries outside the United States, including in South America, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and New Zealand. South Korea is the leader outside the United States, with 765 locations.
Baskin-Robbins has roughly 3,600 locations in 35 countries outside the United States. About 1,000 of them are in Japan, second only to the U.S. total.
Closer to home, Dunkin’ Donuts has 39 stores in Western New York, and Baskin-Robbins has 12.
Dunkin’ Brands likes to work with one master licensee — akin to a franchisee — per foreign nation, which then works with sublicensees to open stores. “We like to have one good partner in a country,” Luther said.
But in a big country like China, it works with more than one master licensee.
Dunkin’ Brands’ two chains alter their menu options from country to country to suit local tastes, such as adding choices of teas or using a different type of flour as an ingredient. And local knowledge is vital: In South Korea, a piece of real estate often goes through frequent tenant turnover, unlike in the United States, where retailers are accustomed to staying in one place on longer leases.
“You have to be astute in real estate, and you have to keep your capital costs down,” Luther said.
Dunkin’ Brands reported $7.2 billion in sales last year. The company did not disclose what percent of that revenue came from outside the United States, but Luther said the international component is becoming “more and more important” to the business.