- Dunkin' has partnered with Chicago-based Farmer's Fridge to test menu items like Greek salads, burrito bowls, pesto pasta, Greek yogurt and chia pudding in six restaurants, according to Food & Wine. Three of those restaurants are located in Chicago, and three are in New Jersey. The test will last three months.
- In a statement emailed to Food & Wine, Dunkin' said the test is designed to gather feedback from customers, franchisees and employees to inform future decisions, adding, "Dunkin' is committed to delivering a wide variety of delicious, convenient menu choices to keep our guests running all day long, including options that make it easier to eat on-the-go."
- This test comes more than two years after Dunkin' dropped the "Donuts" from its name in a rebranding effort meant to emphasize its signature beverages. The company went from public to private in October with Inspire Brands' $11.3 billion acquisition.
These items may very well fit into two of Dunkin's current focus areas — on-the-go and lunch. Farmer's Fridge got its start seven years ago by distributing its fresh food through refrigerated vending machines, so its offerings are already suited for portability.
In July, during its last full earnings call before going private, Dunkin' President Scott Murphy said its NextGen design, which provides faster service through its drive-thru footprint, and other drive-thru locations reported stronger comps that were up in the mid-single-digits in the last two weeks of the quarter compared to non-drive-thru locations. Restaurant Business reported that this model provided a significant advantage over Starbucks during the pandemic, creating a 990-basis-point difference in Q3. Because of its success, the company is tweaking its NextGen model to include even faster service, such as on-the-go pickup areas and walkup windows, Murphy said.
This Farmer's Fridge test could also be a play for stronger lunch traffic, an area where Starbucks has had an advantage with its variety of sandwiches, bowls and snack boxes. During that Q3 call, Murphy said guest routines have shifted sales from early morning to midday, specifically 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. He added that the company's product innovation is addressing that shift. This test seems to reflect that strategy.
A major challenge will be whether or not consumers will buy into Dunkin' as a concept that sells salads. Even after its extensive rebranding effort, the brand continues to sell — and promote — its donuts. With a deep, 70-plus-year history, that legacy isn't likely to fade just because of a shorter name.
Also, that rebrand was meant in part to offer a simplified menu, and COVID pushed the chain to prioritize reducing operational complexity so employees could focus on safety protocols, according to Murphy. But because the Farmer's Fridge offerings are pre-packaged and operationally simple, they likely won't cause efficiency challenges.
Farmer's Fridge plans to prepare the food and deliver those items to participating Dunkin' locations, so distribution could also be a piece that needs to be solved in order to scale across the chain's system.