Updated May 25 at 6:51am

For decades, Rhode Island has run on Dunkin’

“One year we advertised that we were going to sell iced coffee in January, and it turned out to be a great thing to do,” said Joe Prazeres as we sat inside one of his Dunkin’ Donuts shops on a recent rainy afternoon. More

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FOOD SERVICE

For decades, Rhode Island has run on Dunkin’

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“One year we advertised that we were going to sell iced coffee in January, and it turned out to be a great thing to do,” said Joe Prazeres as we sat inside one of his Dunkin’ Donuts shops on a recent rainy afternoon.

Around the table as the lunch rush wound down were Joe’s two sons, Chris and Cliff, also franchisees. For 25 years, the family has owned a number of the iconic coffee and bake shops in various locations. This tenure puts them in a select group of business-people across the nation. Their fellow franchisees look to them for innovation and for new ideas and tastes that go on to be best selling items nationwide.

As time went on and customer habits changed and with many more choices available for those customers, was it a question of how to get customers to return during the day for more than just donuts and coffee? Chris said that it was a combination of that and changing demand from guests.

“We wanted to please more customers who at the same time were making requests for different types of food and drink, so together we came up with solutions,” he said.

This led to the creation of some of the signature items on the Dunkin’ menu today. Some people can’t remember a summer without the frozen concoction known as the Coolatta. When Dunkin introduced it back in 1997 it was only available in one flavor – frozen coffee. Fruit flavors followed, as did the competition. But the Coolatta prevailed and is available in more varieties than ever.

While the brand name is Dunkin’ Donuts, the reality is that the business is no longer primarily donuts. Cliff shared some company sales figures that revealed that locally, more beverages than food are sold day in and day out at Dunkin’ shops in New England, a 70-30 ratio of drinks to food. The more-drink, less-food equation does not hold true in the rest of the country, however. Chris cited some national figures which put the balance closer to 50-50 nationwide.

Today’s customer wants the familiar taste but wants it to fit in with a healthier lifestyle. Chris said a recent innovation is a branded line of food and beverage selections with clearly marked calorie counts and ingredient lists, from lattes blended with skim milk to leaner turkey sausage and flatbreads to unsweetened iced tea.

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