Asheesh Seth, Member of the DDIFO Board of Directors

Asheesh Seth, Member of the DDIFO Board of Directors

Martin Desmarais  writes in the IndUS Business Journal that the Midwest Dunkin’ Donuts Franchise Association has always pushed to be a unified voice for its predominantly South Asian members, so when the New England-based DD Independent Franchise Owners Inc. asked the group to join forces in its quest to bring together all the Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees in the United States it jumped at the chance.

The Midwest franchise association’s Executive Director Asheesh Seth recently joined the DDIFO’s board in a move that all parties believe will pool the groups’ collective bargaining power.

“We are all facing many of the same issues when it comes to Dunkin’ brands and franchisee issues and we feel there is strength in numbers,” said Seth, who joined the group in 2005 when it was first launched in Chicago. Seth is director of operations for Sterlite Software, a Chicago IT-consulting company that did a lot of work for franchise customers, which connected him to the community. He was brought originally to help the Midwest franchise group with its communications and Web site and was soon asked to be executive director.

The group is predominantly South Asian and its members represent 400 of the 500 Dunkin’ Donuts locations in the region. Seth estimates that about 90 percent of the 500 stores are owned by Pakistan Americans and Indian Americans. The group has always had a goal of providing education to its franchisees to help them better run their stores and bringing franchisees together in a unified voice.

Though the Midwest Dunkin’ Donut owners originally were focused on their region, the overall growth of the Dunkin’ Donuts chain and the aspirations of the New England franchise group to bring together all the franchisees, made joining with them the next logical evolution, according to Seth.

The DD Independent Franchise Owners was formed in 1989 and is headquartered in Canton, Mass. The group is an association of approximately 1,500 Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees, predominantly in New England. The DDIFO is also a founding member of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations, which provides a forum for franchisee association leaders to collaborate, as well as monitor and support legislation that is beneficial to franchisees.

Together the two groups are part of the massive Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ donuts chain, which has more than 8,800 restaurants in 31 countries worldwide. In 2008, Dunkin’ Donuts’ global system-wide sales were $5.5 billion. Based in Canton, Massachusetts, Dunkin’ Donuts is a subsidiary of Dunkin Brands Inc. and is the largest coffee and baked goods chain in the world. It was founded in 1950.

The DDIFO provides a lot of news about the Dunkin’ Donuts brand and franchising through publications such as the DDIFO Insider, Legal and Legislative Updates and News You Can Use and Seth said his group has always acknowledge the value of the New England group.

In addition, the Midwest association shares the same emphasis on many of the common issues that effect Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees, such as higher food costs, lower revenues, credit card fees, menu labeling, loss prevention, brand-approved vendors, compliance and store valuations.

“With the backing of the DDIFO we will be able to fight these battles locally,” said Seth.

Seth hopes his role on the DDIFO board will allow him to serve in the best interest of all the Midwest franchisees, as well as those across the nation, and back the vision of a national association.

According to him, the Midwest Dunkin’ Donuts Franchise Association will remain intact as an organization for now, but all of its members will become members of the DDIFO.

Seth said that adding his association’s 400 stores to the 1,500 represented by the DDIFO is crucial in the quest for a national group representing Dunkin’ Donuts’ franchisees. The two groups are the biggest Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee associations out there and they also bridge a diversity gap in that, while the Midwest group is predominantly South Asian, the New England is not and it has a large Portuguese-American membership.

“We feel we are a very important key to the equation,” Seth said. “By us being a part of this it is going to open the door for franchisees of all cultures and it will show that the DDIFO isn’t just focused on one demographic.”

The two groups began talking about coming together at the start of 2009 and Seth traveled to DDIFO meeting in September and the joining was quickly solidified after that. “We had common goals,” said Seth. “When you have common goals things come together quickly.”

According to Jim Coen, the DDIFO’s president, the evolution of the Dunkin’ Donuts brand, from a mostly New England region chain to national and global concept, is what has sparked his association to broaden its scope and seek to join with other franchisees across the nation.

“The bringing in of Chicago helped us achieve the first step in that process,” Coen said. “It is definitely a step in the right direction and I have been working on it for awhile.”

Coen said that with the Midwest Dunkin’ Donuts Franchise Association on board he is now talking to other Dunkin’ Donuts markets across the United States. He firmly believes the more franchisees that unite the more clout, recognition and influence they will have.

“We are not going to get anything done with this brand unless we go across the country,” he said. “The difference is numbers … Franchise associations need to include all franchisees.”

Unlike the Midwest and New England franchise groups, Coen pointed out that Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees in other parts of the country are not organized and he sees the need to create DDIFO chapters that would bring them together. This would also create the unified front that the DDIFO craves.

“It is to the future of the organization to make sure we have local representation in each market,” Coen said.

IndUS Business Journal