In February, 2009 Dunkin Donuts introduced the first breakfast sandwich featuring waffles. Feedback from guests was overwhelmingly positive, so in 2011, the popular sandwich returned in a blueberry version. Other recent introductions include two new Wake-Up Wraps and the Big N’ Toasty Breakfast Sandwich. We talked with Stan Frankenthaler, executive chef and VP of Innovation for Dunkin Brands, to get an inside look at menu R&D at this 9,700 unit chain.
What breakfast trends are driving menu development at Dunkin Donuts?
Our customers are busier than ever. We know they are looking for food and beverages that can be enjoyed any time of day, served fast, fresh and with no compromise on taste or quality. Affordability is also key.
How do you develop a breakfast item, from ideation to market launch?
First, our team of talented chefs gets together to create the ideal product—a handmade or “bench” version that becomes the gold standard for what we are trying achieve. Then we work to scale that up to make it replicable in our thousands of locations. During this process we might spend a lot of time getting the final version to taste as close to the original as possible—making tweaks in flavor or texture. Lastly, we test the products and develop operational procedures for launch.
What was the impetus behind your new Big N’ Toasty Breakfast Sandwich?
My team and I were inspired by the old-fashioned diner meals we ate growing up. I like to think of the Big N’ Toasty Breakfast Sandwich as “retro-reinvented,” because we took nostalgic flavors—bacon, eggs, buttered toast—and incorporated them in a sandwich.
We’ve always thought that our guests would enjoy a breakfast sandwich on Texas toast, especially if we griddled it, resulting in a buttery yet crispy outer layer. We looked for boldly flavored components that would taste great in between buttered Texas toast, and found the right combination: two peppered fried eggs, four crispy slices of cherrywood smoked bacon and a creamy slice of American cheese. I always know that we’re on to something when my team goes crazy for a new product, but what really stands out to me is when I hear positive feedback from our franchisees and guests.
How do you integrate the components of new items into your inventory?
Most of the time, we are creating new products from scratch. We do have the advantage of being a large company with great supplier relationships. As such, we understand their capabilities and can work to apply our new ideas to those capabilities. In the case of the blueberry waffle—that was a unique recipe developed just for us. For our Big N’ Toasty Breakfast Sandwich, we had to line up a source for Texas toast—an ingredient we never purchased before.
What makes for a successful breakfast item at Dunkin’ Donuts?
Portability continues to be essential as more people look for new ways to enjoy breakfast on-the-go. Our research also shows that people like Dunkin’ Donuts because they can get our breakfast products any time of day, at 8 a.m or 8 p.m.
Variety is important, too—to satisfy the variety of our customers’ needs. Hearty eaters can choose the Big N’ Toasty Breakfast Sandwich—the brand’s biggest breakfast sandwich ever. Egg white flatbread sandwiches and Wake-up Wraps—made with egg whites and turkey sausage or veggies—are part of our DDSMART menu for those who want better-for-you choices.
Are the new items LTOs or will they remain on the breakfast menu?
The Blueberry Waffle Sandwich was available for a limited time this spring. The two Wake-Up Wrap variations were introduced in January and the Big N’ Toasty Breakfast Sandwich in February; both are still on the menu.