A conversation with David Rodgers, General Manager of Dunkin' Donuts Middle East
It has been eighteen years since the brand first made an entry into the UAE market in 1997. For us it has been truly a journey of discovery, a learning process that let to us gaining knowledge about the region, its taste preferences, how people take to snacks and baked goods and how best to reach the local populace. The years have also taught us how to deal with the multi-faceted tastes of a truly multinational consumer market. Today, the UAE is truly an amalgam of people drawn in from over a 100 different nations, each with their own tastes, likes and dislikes. As a quick serve brand trying to make headway into a market where familiarity with the brand was in its infancy, it was truly a challenge to deal with such a varied marketplace. From small beginnings the brand today proudly serves its customers at 74 different outlets across all the emirates of the country. With a reputation for quick and efficient service at its outlets, thanks to its team of dedicated and superbly-trained service personnel, Dunkin' Donuts serves up a range of top class baked goods and coffee to customers around the country. What do you think has been behind the brand's success? Dunkin' Donuts success has been built on being able to present our customers with always fresh baked goods and excellent coffee effectively at all our various locations in the country. As a team we have endeavored to try and reach out to the customer at every convenient location that they are likely to need a quick snack or coffee. That has been the reason behind the mushrooming of our outlets at varying locations across the country. We have also been able to tailor our products to match regional tastes and preferences. Our dedicated range of special offerings at festivals and celebrations have been well received as have our special range of drinks. While we are indeed thankful to our customers around the region for their overwhelming response to our products, we will continue to raise the bar in terms of product range and quality as well as dedicated customer-oriented service across all our outlets going forward. How have you been able to create a market for your products and what kind of customers normally frequent your outlets? Ever since we began operations in the UAE in 1997 our mission has been to provide our customers with the freshest in baked goods and a selection of fine coffees. This dedication to serving up goods only of the highest quality has led to us selling over 60 million donuts and served 10 million cups of coffee across the country since then. The UAE, being a highly multi-cultural market is among the most significant territories for the brand within the Middle East. The market has responded well to ground-breaking innovations, like the opening of the first drive-through outlet. The brand’s success is underlined by the fact that the UAE today has the highest concentration of Dunkin' Donuts stores in the region. A recent customer survey showed that nearly half (47%) the Dunkin’ Donuts clientele in the UAE comprised UAE nationals and Arab expatriates, while Asians accounted for around 23% of its customer base. Looking ahead, how do you think the market will be, especially for quick serve chains like yours, given that many large brands are facing uncertainties in other markets? Change is the only constant, like they say. Markets are changing all the time, at some times the change is both rapid and visible, at other times more gradual and calculated and on the odd occasion even unexpected and cataclysmic. The secret behind sustained success is to be able to foresee the change and adapt our tactics to meet the challenge. Either we fashion strategies to overcome the foreseen obstacles or evolve as an organisation to deal with it. The quick serve market is also constantly changing. As a brand our constant efforts have been to build long and lasting relationships with all our stakeholders, while at the same time keeping our eyes open to the changing needs and requirements of our customers. In the future success will belong to brands that succeed in maintaining their unique identity, retaining the pizzazz that marked them out as unique in the marketplace. To do this brands will have to embrace change in all sorts of ways, new products, new image, investing further in customer and community relations and not lose touch with the way the world is changing. What kind of volumes do you shift in terms of baked goods and drinks across your outlets in the UAE? Dunkin' Donuts outlets across the UAE today serve up over 60 million donuts a year in fifty different flavours, all produced by the brand's state-of-the-art production facilities in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. With products and flavours tailored to suit the multi-faceted tastes of the UAE's wide spectrum of nationalities, the brand has today emerged as a hot favourite as people get together for memorable occasions and celebrations. Going forward how do you see the brand developing in the UAE and the region? Our strategic expansion plan for the UAE is based on steady organic growth with the emphasis on reaching the customer right at the point of their need. Which means that our outlets should be at hand or easy to access wherever a customer feels the need for a quick snack and a pick-me-up drink. Which is why our expansion campaign is carefully structured to include areas with constant customer throughput. The latest addition to the range of Dunkin’ Donuts range of outlets in the UAE is at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi. Building on the increasing popularity of our high-quality baked goods and select coffee blends across the country, we plan to add a total of 4 outlets across the emirates in the coming year. Our strength is the unmatched combination of our superior blend of coffee and a wider range of donuts than any other coffee shop in addition to dedicated standards of customer service. In order to cater to the ever-growing demand for coffee and baked goods, Dunkin’ Donuts established its AED 19 million kitchen and warehouse facility in Sharjah. The complex, with an area of 30,000 sq. ft. and the production capacity to produce over 50 million doughnuts a year, is the chain’s largest industrial and commercial complex of its kind the region. The complex has a production facility, warehouses, offices, staff accommodation and a dedicated transportation fleet. How does the brand, which is a global leader, able to build on its relations with the local community? Being part of the local community and participating in their events and special occasions is extremely important to Dunkin Donuts UAE. The brand regularly celebrates festivals and special occasions with special ranges of products in order to mark the special day. These include designer donuts and drinks to mark the holy month of Ramadan, vacations, back to school period, Valentine's Day, New Year and other special competitions and offers organized by Dunkin Donuts across the country. Dunkin Donuts UAE has also reached new heights of popularity by its vital social media presence. Over 12 million people liked the Dunkin' Donuts Facebook page, while over 1 million visitors visit regularly to check out the latest products and special offers being announced. How is the brand doing globally? Serving up nearly 1.8 billion cups of fresh and iced coffee and 2.1 billion beverages every year, through its outlets located across the globe, Dunkin' Donuts is today one of the world's favourite quick serve master franchises. Dunkin Donuts was founded in 1950 and is the favourite destination for quick serve, beverage and daily donuts across the world. It is also one of the market leaders in the sector of regular/decaffeinated/flavoured hot coffee, donut, bagel, and muffin servings. For eight years running, Dunkin' Donuts has been recognized by the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index as number one in customer loyalty in the coffee category. It is today present in over 33 countries and operates nearly 11,000 restaurants worldwide. Much of the brand's acknowledged success has come from its dedication to freshness and quality across all its outlets. Today the chain sells over 30 cups of coffee a second and serves more than 5 million customers worldwide, a testimony to its success in pleasing even the most demanding of customers. According to recent market research conducted by The NPD Group / CREST®, Dunkin’ Donuts had the No. 1 share of regular/decaffeinated/flavored hot coffee, donut, bagel, and muffin servings and the No. 2 share of breakfast sandwich servings in quick service restaurants across North America. Dunkin’ Donuts is consistently featured in Franchise Times’ Annual “Top 200 Franchise Systems” ranking and QSR Magazine’s “QSR 50.” In 2011, Forbes listed Dunkin’ Donuts as one of its “Top 20 Franchises to Start”. Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Dunkin’ Donuts in the top10 in its 2012 Franchise 500, while Fortune Magazine named Dunkin’ Donuts in its list of Best Franchises. As a brand Dunkin' Donuts is also committed to Fair Trade Practices. All of Dunkin’ Donuts’ espresso drinks are made with Fair Trade Certified coffee. In fact Dunkin’ Donuts was the first brand to sell espresso beverages made exclusively with 100% Fair Trade Certified coffee in the US. To date, Dunkin’ Donuts has purchased more than 26 million pounds of coffee from small-scale coffee farmers.