Dunkin' c.e.o.: Starbucks move 'a great compliment'

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — Starbucks Coffee Co.’s pending acquisition of the La Boulange bakery brand is “a great compliment to us,” said Nigel Travis, chief executive officer of Dunkin’ Brands and president of Dunkin’ Donuts U.S.

“They clearly think that they haven’t got their bakery act together, so they need to copy us,” Mr. Travis told participants at the Goldman Sachs Lodging, Gaming, Restaurant and Leisure Conference held June 5 in New York. “And we have wonderful bakery positioning. Everyone knows our donuts. Our donuts actually have grown the last two years faster than they’ve grown in previous years. I think it’s because we have revitalized the category with new innovations.

“Everyone jokes about our heart-shaped donuts that we use for Valentine’s Day and we also rolled out for the royal wedding last year, but that was an unbelievable success. People love that kind of association with the news and products.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Travis said breakfast sandwiches from Dunkin’ have grown to become “a major glue in our menu.”

“So, I think the first thought I had was, well, (Starbucks is) trying to invade our space — but hey, this is a compliment,” he said.

Mr. Travis said one of the articles he read about Starbuck’s acquisition of La Boulange focused on the innovation that it may bring to the Seattle-based company, but he stressed the biggest challenge in bakery is not innovation.

“We have a guy called Chef Stan that’s always on the ‘Today’ program, and he does a terrific job,” Mr. Travis said. “The real challenge is supply chain. And our supply chain — rightly or wrongly — has been developed over many years. It’s fairly complicated. We’re working very hard with our franchisees to streamline it, and I think we’re making huge progress. But that’s the real challenge.”

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