Stan Frankenthaler is director of culinary development for Dunkin’ Brands.

Stan Frankenthaler is director of culinary development for Dunkin’ Brands.

Gail Ciampa the Providence Journal Food Editor  reports that a few weeks ago, McDonald’s wanted to talk about coffee. Last week, Dunkin’ Donuts wanted to talk about its foods.

Has the world gone mad? Or has it just grown crazily competitive in the quick service restaurant category to which they belong?

More likely the latter, because the heat is on to offer premium food and drink to keep and capture customers, especially with fast casual restaurants like Panera taking a piece of the corporate pie.

The food additions are simply a natural growth of the Dunkin’ Donuts business, said Stan Frankenthaler, executive chef and director of culinary development for Dunkin’ Brands, which includes DD. Once Dunkin’ added bagels and croissants to the bakery items, it was just another step to offering breakfast sandwiches. If you are going to give customers those items, why wouldn’t you offer a more healthful choice of the new egg white sandwich?

What is important to Frankenthaler’s corporate kitchen is this: “It has to taste great.”

Any restaurant, fast or otherwise, can use food science to build a menu, the chef said. But Dunkin’s kitchen practices culinology, which blends the culinary arts and food technology to pull together a menu that boasts seasonal items and an ever growing menu of food.

Frankenthaler is a much celebrated Boston chef who ran his own restaurant, Salamander, after working for Jasper White. In 2005 he joined Dunkin’ Brands, which includes Baskin Robbins.

He said his culinary department resembles a restaurant model today. He has an assistant or sous chef, Michael McEwen; a bakery chef (like the pastry chef); a savory chef (making the non-sweets); and a beverage specialist whose expertise in coffee would rival that of a star mixologist behind the bar. That’s why Dunkin’ comes up with new combinations — say, a new iced tea paired with a flatbread.

A restaurant would use anecdotal and personal experiences to create a menu, though, while Frankenthaler’s company offers extensive research to tell him what the DD customer wants. A restaurant says, let’s offer this dish or that dish as a nightly special, and see which sells.

“At a restaurant, the research is more immediate with the ‘yucks’ and ‘yummies,’ ” he said.

But either way, it involves learning what the customer wants. And right now what his customer wants is something new to try in all parts of the menu. That’s why you see seasonal drinks like pumpkin lattes and pastries like pumpkin muffins and apple twists. Drink and food go hand in hand.

“We are cooking seasonally,” he said. “We offer the food people want to wake up to and on a cool fall morning, you think apples and cinnamon.”

On Monday DD introduced two new varieties of chicken croissant sandwiches and chicken wraps. The wraps are served on a soft flour tortilla and cost $1.49 to $1.79 while the croissants cost $2.49 to $2.99. They are offered in Original Chicken (featuring seasoned meat with ranch sauce and melted Monterey Jack cheese) and as a Bacon Jack Chicken Sandwich.

Frankenthaler shared some seasonal recipes using Dunkin’ items, including a trifle made easy by using instant pudding, and a stuffing made with muffins.

Read more at: Providence Journal