The First Dunkin' Donuts
Backstory and Context
Dunkin’ Donuts is a widely known coffee brand and fast food chain especially in the Northeast of the United States. Dunkin’ Donuts got its start in 1948 when founder William Rosenberg opened the Open Kettle, which was eventually changed to Dunkin’ Donuts(Smith). William continued to open more locations throughout the U.S. until eventually, he franchised Dunkin’ Donuts. Today, Dunkin’ Donuts has over 10,000 locations and has even expanded internationally(Smith). Dunkin’ Donuts, when it first opened, focused solely on making coffee and donuts. Doughnuts were first brought to the U.S. by the Dutch, though they did not resemble the doughnuts we think of today(Smith). Coffee has also become a staple in the lives of Americans, most of which consume at least a cup to start their day. Coffee became the main source of caffeine for Americans after the Boston Tea Party depopularized tea consumption(Smith). Today, coffee has made its way into the fast food industry, where Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are two of the main competitors.
Doughnuts are deep-fried dough thought to have originated from the Middle East, but have been traced back to Europe as well(Smith). They were first introduced in America by the Dutch in New Netherland(Smith). The doughnuts got their flavor from eggs, butter, spices, dried fruit and a final dusting of sugar(Smith). The dough was sticky, due to additional flour to mask the strong flavors, and were usually fried in Canola Oil(Smith). They were shaped in irregular balls called “oliekoecken” instead of the ring we have today(Smith). They were typically consumed during special occasions like Christmas(Smith). Once the Dutch arrived in America, they switched from Canola Oil to fat or lard due to its easier accessibility(Smith). In addition to the Dutch, other groups created their own versions of the doughnut as well. These groups included the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Moravians, who settled in North Carolina(Smith). The French also brought over beignets, mostly to the New Orleans area(Smith). By 1845, the doughnut became a staple in American cookbooks(Smith).
Two main factors played into the modern development of the donut. The first is the discovery of chemical leavening agents such as baking soda and baking powder(Smith). They were used in replacement of yeast, which in turn created a more cake like product instead of the original bread like product(Smith). The second factor was in the invention of donut cutters, which became inexpensive and readily available to manufacturers(Smith). Donuts are now rarely made in the home and are commercially produced by chains such as Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Most Americans prefer to start their day with a cup of coffee over a cup of tea. This preference became popular after the Boston Tea Party in 1773, where it was believed to be an American’s civic duty to switch from tea to coffee(Smith). The real growth of coffee consumption within America occurred during the early to mid 1800’s(Smith). After the War of 1812, access to tea was temporarily cut off, pushing Americans to get their caffeine kick elsewhere(Smith). Coffee also played an important role during the Civil War, where the Northern troops were given a coffee supply and the Southern troops were not(Smith). Coffee acts as an appetite suppressant, which kept the North soldiers feeling full, more awake and staying alert, giving them an advantage in the War. Two inventions specifically helped facilitate the growth of coffee during and after the Civil War. In 1864, the self emptying coffee roaster was invented by Jabez Burns(Smith). The roaster prevented housewives from burning their coffee beans from trying to roast the beans themselves(Smith). The second invention came as a result to the first invention, when brothers John and Charles Arbuckle started to sell pre-roasted coffee beans in a brown paper bag at their grocery store(Smith). This allowed for easier access to coffee and facilitated growth within homes(Smith). With coffee consumption in the home on the rise, people began to prefer coffee chains for their convenience. This allowed for chains such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts to dominate the industry.
William Rosenberg, founder of Dunkin’ Donuts, is originally from Boston, Massachusetts(Smith). William dropped out of school when he was just fourteen years old in order to work and help support his family(Smith). During this time, he delivered telegrams for Western Union and worked as a door-to-door salesman(Smith). With plenty of work available during World War II, he managed to save up $1,500 in war bonds(Smith). After the WWII, he cashed in the bonds and borrowed an additional $1,000 to start his own business(Smith). He found that there was little food options available for the men working at the worksite yards and decided to try and fix this problem in suburban Boston(Smith). William went to worksites and sold coffee, sandwiches, and baked goods from converted telephone trucks(Smith). He eventually opened up 140 trucks at a variety of worksites and called his business Industrial Luncheon Services(Smith).
Rosenberg noticed roughly half of his sales were coming from donuts and coffee(Daszkowski). Therefore, he decided to open a donut and coffee shop in Quincy, Massachusetts and named it the “Open Kettle.”(Daszkowski) Here, Rosenberg sold donuts for ten cents and coffee for a nickel, which were cheap prices even for this time.(Daszkowski) William noticed that his customers often dunked their donuts in their coffee and was already unhappy with his shop’s name.(Daszkowski) In 1950, he switched the shop’s name to Dunkin’ Donuts just two years after opening.(Daszkowski) With success from the first store, William decided to open more locations in Somerville, Natick, Saugus, and Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.(Smith) In these shops, customers were able to watch the donuts be made while sitting at a counter. (Daszkowski)
As Dunkin’ Donuts continued growing, it opened its first franchise in 1955.(Smith) At this franchised location, they sold 52 varieties of donuts, equating a different doughnut to each week of the year.(Daszkowski) By 1963, the company had over 100 locations nationwide.(Smith) In 1966, Dunkin’ Donuts University opened to help franchisers run their businesses.(Smith) In 1970, Dunkin’ Donuts opened its first international location in Japan.(Smith) The growth of Dunkin’ Donuts was also facilitated through its hit advertisement in 1978, which featured “Fred the baker” waking up before dawn, saying the famous line “Time to make the doughnuts.”(Smith) By 1979, the franchise opened its 100th store. (Smith)
William’s son Robert took over the business in 1963 when he was just 25 and was a recent grad of the Harvard Business School.(Daszkowski) Robert’s leadership transformed the franchise into what we know of them today, and was in control until 1999.(Daszkowski) Robert made many changes to the menu including adding muffins, bagels, Munchkins, croissants, breakfast sandwiches and other beverages including Coolattas and serving their hot beverage in styrofoam cups instead of paper.(Daszkowski) Robert also eliminated the donut manufacturing in store, which allowed for more locations to be open due to the decreased amount of space needed to operate the shop.(Daszkowski) Dunkin’ Donuts eventually bought out the Mr. Donut chain, it’s top competitor and the nation’s second largest doughnut chain in 1990.(Smith) In 2011, Dunkin’ Donuts opened its 10,000th location.(Smith) Today, Dunkin’ Donuts has recently opened their 12,000th location and sells on average 2.3 billion donuts per year.(Smith) The franchise’s famous slogan is “America Runs on Dunkin” but the franchise continues grow both nation and worldwide.(Daszkowski) Most recently, they have switched their official brand name from Dunkin’ Donuts to Dunkin’, to keep their relationship with customers on a “first name basis.”William Rosenberg’s first store, Open Kettle, in 1948 has since grown to Dunkin’ Donuts with 12,000+ storefronts nationwide; becoming a staple not just in the Northeast, but of the entire U.S. for coffee and donuts.(Smith) Dunkin’ Donuts has grown exponentially over the years and continues to do so today, with its main focus still being their coffee and donuts.
Daszkowski, Don. “The Delicious History of Dunkin Donuts.” The Balance Small Business, The Balance Small Business, 24 Sept. 2018, www.thebalancesmb.com/the-history-of-dunkin- donuts-3973232.Smith, Andrew F. “Dunkin' Donuts .” The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 661–661.