Dunkin’ Donuts has been serving up delicious delights to the American public for 70 years. From relatively humble beginnings in Massachusetts, the coffeehouse has gone on to conquer the world. Here, we take a look back at some nostalgic photos of the chain that will make you long for a taste of the good old days.
40. Late-1940s: William Rosenberg starts out in business
The founder of Dunkin’ Donuts, William Rosenberg, started a catering company using bonds he’d acquired in World War Two. His business supplied food to factory workers in Massachusetts. In order to deliver snacks to his customers, Rosenberg used remodeled taxicabs, making an early version of the catering trucks that are still in use in the modern day.
39. Late-1940s: Rosenberg realizes the demand for coffee and donuts
While running his meal-on-wheels service for Boston’s hungry factory workers, Rosenberg saw something curious. That’s because he was making almost half of his money from the sales of donuts and coffee alone. As a result, Rosenberg spotted a gap in the market for a business focusing on these two items.
38. 1948: Open Kettle
In 1948 Rosenberg realized his dream of a firm that specializes in baked goods when his first outlet in Quincy, MA, started up. At this point, however, the eatery didn’t go by the name of Dunkin’ Donuts, but as Open Kettle instead. Somehow, though, Rosenberg felt that the moniker wasn’t quite right.
37. 1950: Dunkin’ Donuts is born
Rosenberg put an end to these concerns in 1950 when Open Kettle became Dunkin’ Donuts. It was apparently his wish to “make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well merchandised stores.” And if the chain’s success is anything to go by, it appears that Rosenberg was onto something.
36. Early-1950s: Rosenberg perfects his recipe for success
Dunkin’ Donuts soon became a hit with customers thanks to its reasonable prices and snappy service. And it seems that Rosenberg took a hands-on approach to ensure the success of his business, for instance by perfecting his coffee recipe himself. To demonstrate his love for the product, he always started the day with his company’s signature brew.
35. 1953: Donuts for dunkin’
For Rosenberg, Dunkin’ Donuts wasn’t just a catchy name, though. It was a way of life. He really wanted customers to dip their goodies into their drinks. So, to reinforce this idea, he made Q-shaped donuts that were perfect for the task. The handled treats remained a staple of the business right up to 2003, at which point hand-shaped donuts were superseded by machine-made rings.
34. 1955: Dunkin’ goes national
Seemingly spurred on by the success of his Quincy restaurant, Rosenberg started allowing Dunkin’ Donuts franchises as early as 1955. However, franchising was disapproved of in those days and some states went so far as to outlaw it. Rosenberg pushed on regardless, though, convinced that the concept had merit.
33. Mid-1950s: Dunkin’ Donuts experiments with flavors
As the 1950s progressed, Rosenberg was eager to differentiate Dunkin’ Donuts from rival stores selling baked goods. With that in mind, he put his focus on expanding his business’ range of flavors, eventually settling on more than 50. Apparently, Rosenberg took inspiration from Howard Johnson’s, which had ice cream of almost 30 flavors.
32. 1961: Meet Dunkie
Dunkin’ Donuts introduced their adorable mascot Dunkie to the world in the early 1960s. This iconic little pastry man came complete with a cap and a bow tie. Bizarrely, he also sported a coffee cup as a kind of elaborate pair of pants, in order to protect his modesty. He carried with him a tray of donuts as well, which he served up with a cheeky wink and a smile.
31. Early-1960s: Dunkin’s spelling mistake goes mainstream
The term “doughnut” in reference to a spherical lump of dough that’s been fried was first recorded in 1809 by a writer named Washington Irving. And while the name had already been shortened to “donut” before Rosenberg’s time, it’s nonetheless his company that seems to have propelled this variation into widespread use. Nowadays, of course, “donut” is a commonplace spelling.
30. 1963: Dunkin’ opens its 100th store
In 1963 Dunkin’ Donuts set up its 100th outlet, thanks to the success of its franchises. It had been less than a decade, in fact, since Rosenberg first introduced the business model. And it’d proven to be a great success. The shop was spreading across the U.S., fast becoming a favorite of hungry customers up and down the land.
29. 1963: Rosenberg hands over the reins to his son
Rosenberg’s son was put in charge of Dunkin’ Donuts in 1963 while still in his mid-20s. Half a decade later, Rosenberg purchased a New Hampshire farm and became a highly respected New England horse breeder. He lived until the age of 86 and passed away in September 2002.
28. 1970: Dunkin’ takes Japan
Moreover, by the 1970s the appeal of Dunkin’ Donuts had gone global. At the start of the decade, the company established its first outlet abroad, in Japan. The business continued in the country for almost 30 years, until declining sales led to it pulling out at the end of the 1990s. Nonetheless, the idea of dunkin’ our donuts had caught on elsewhere by then.
27. 1972: Introduction of the munchkins
The year 1972 saw the release of munchkins – bite-sized donuts for those who didn’t want to commit to a whole one. While the origin of the tasty snack isn’t clear, it’s been rumored that Dunkin’ Donuts created them as a nifty way of using up dough leftover in the production process.
26. 1970s: Dunkin’ Donuts captures America’s heart
By the 1970s Dunkin’ Donuts had become a firm favorite among the U.S. public as well – and those days are fondly remembered to this day. However, it wasn’t the only chain offering coffee and baked goods as its principal products. Later, Dunkin’ Donuts would purchase its main competitors, Dawn Donuts and Mister Donut. So, before then it no doubt had to work hard to keep ahead of the game.
25. 1978: Dunkin’ launches muffins
As the years passed by, Dunkin’ regularly expanded its menu to keep its customers happy. For example, 1978 saw the arrival of newly baked muffins in store. These tasty treats came in flavor combinations such chocolate chip and blueberry and offered patrons to the chain a non-fried option to eat.
24. 1979: Dunkin’ Donuts opens its 1,000th store
Some 16 years after Dunkin’ Donuts marked the opening of its 100th store, the chain reached another major milestone. That’s because 1979 saw the brand launch its 1,000th U.S. location in the. At this point, its restaurants were still primarily found around the northeast of the country, as a result of the company’s Massachusetts origins.
23. 1979: Dunkin’ Donuts Easter Eggs
To mark Easter in 1979 Dunkin’ Donuts launched an adorable range of egg-shaped goodies, which could be bought in little cartons by the dozen. The chain carried on selling the holiday special until the 1980s. And to this day, Dunkin’ still celebrates the holidays with some special novelty bakes.
22. 1980: The world’s biggest Dunkin’ Donuts
At the turn of the 1980s Dunkin’ Donuts established its biggest store to date. Situated in Bangkok, Thailand, the restaurant marked a move away from the chain’s fast-food roots. With more than 100 seats, the store invited customers to take a load off while they enjoyed their coffee and sweet treats in-house.
21. 1982: Fred The Baker
In 1982 Dunkin’ Donuts launched a memorable advertising campaign. It starred actor Michael Vale in the role of Fred the Baker, a character who won the hearts of many viewers with his “time to make the donuts” catchphrase. Fred remained the face of the brand for more than a decade, in fact, until he was sadly retired in the late 1990s.
20. 1988: Dunkin’ Donuts cereal
Moreover, Dunkin’ Donuts launched its very own cereal in 1988. The breakfast food came in two different varieties: chocolate and glazed-style. According to the box, its contents promised “crunchy little donuts with a great big taste!” The product was of course advertised by Fred The Baker, in a commercial that showed him making mini donuts for the cereal.
19. 1994: Donuts and ice cream join forces
Dunkin’ Donuts was bought out by Allied Domecq PLC at the very start of the 1990s. After a number of subsequent mergers, the company also acquired the ice cream firm Baskin Robbins. Combining the forces of the two restaurant chains, in 1994 Allied launched Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. which saw the creation of combined Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins stores across the U.S.
18. 1995: CEO Bob Rosenberg gets back behind the counter
Bob Rosenberg worked at his father’s first Dunkin’ Donuts outlet back in the late 1950s. And four decades later, in 1995 the then-CEO returned to the restaurant to serve the devoted customers of Quincy. He was joined there by Michael Vale, who was of course better known to fans as Fred The Baker.
17. 1995: Dunkin’ Donuts opens its 1,000th international store
It seems that by 1995 Dunkin’ Donuts was taking over the world. That year, 16 years after the chain reached 1,000 stores in the U.S., it achieved the same feat in its overseas operations. The location of that outlet was Thailand, which was already home to Dunkin’s biggest restaurant.
16. 1995: Dunkin’ introduces new coffee flavors
Up until 1995 it seems that Dunkin’ Donuts had relied on its signature coffee blend that Rosenberg perfected in the chain’s early days to sell cups of Joe. However, the restaurant decided to mix things up a bit in the mid-90s with the introduction of hazelnut and vanilla flavors.
15. Mid-1990s: Dunkin’ bagels
Bagels took off in a big way in America in the 1990s, and Dunkin’ Donuts had every intention of cashing in on the new breakfast trend. Soon bagels were a savory addition to the restaurant’s menu and within a year, the chain had become the top bagel vendor in the entire U.S.
14. 1997: The coffee Coolatta
When rival chain Starbucks launched its Frappuccinos during the mid-1990s, Dunkin’ Donuts had to fight back. So, in 1997 the restaurant released its own sweet and slushy coffee treat, known as the Coolatta. The drink was like a dessert with a caffeine hit and made the perfect tonic on hot summer days.
13. 1997: Breakfast sandwiches
In 1997 Dunkin’ Donuts upped its morning game yet again with the launch of its breakfast sandwiches. Fillings included traditional blends of cheese, meat and eggs, all of which were served up warm to patrons. And the chain would subsequently add to the menu once again, introducing croissants and English muffins.
12. 1999: The eight-billionth cup of coffee
In the 50 years since its launch, it’s fair to say that Dunkin’ Donuts sold a lot of coffee. In fact, in 1999, the chain celebrated selling its eight-billionth cup of java, no less. The finance company The Motley Fool has stated that the chain now shifts an average of more than 1.5 billion cups annually – that’s some caffeine fix.
11. 2000: Hot chocolate and Dunkaccinos hit the menu
Moreover, it’s not just Dunkin’s food menu that’s been overhauled in recent decades. Its beverage options have been, too. The new millennium saw the addition of two drinks that promised to give customers a sweet hit. They were a rich hot chocolate and the Dunkaccino – the chain’s signature coffee-chocolate hybrid. The two options came topped with whipped cream, making them extra indulgent.
10. 2006: America runs on Dunkin’
After Fred the Baker was retired, Dunkin’ Donuts needed a new advertising angle, preferably something as catchy as the “time to make the donuts” catchphrase had been. And the company struck gold in the mid-2000s when it launched its “America runs on Dunkin’” campaign. The bold statement was simple yet unifying, as was the appeal of the restaurant.
9. 2007: Get Dunkin’ at home
In 2007 Dunkin’ Donuts promised its customers the taste of its famous coffee in the comfort of their own homes. It was then that the chain launched a line of coffees with Procter & Gamble. The products were available at most grocery stores, meaning it was now easier than ever to get your hands on Dunkin’s signature brew.
8. 2008: Dunkin’ gets healthy
As consumers became more health-conscious, Dunkin’ Donuts addressed the trend by bringing out its DDSMART menu in 2008. To create this, the restaurant outlined which of its items contained lower amounts of sugar, fat and calories than “comparable fare.” However, the star of the show was the new flatbread meals that were made using egg white and filled with turkey sausage or vegetables.
7. 2010: The launch of bagel twists
In 2010 Dunkin’ Donuts decided that the traditional ring bagels were so 1990s. As a result, it gave the doughy loops a twist – literally. The restaurant’s new helix-shaped offerings allowed customers to enjoy bagels on the go and came in a number of flavors including cheddar cheese, blueberry and pretzel salt.
6. 2013: The launch of the Dunkin’ app
While Dunkin’ Donuts first brought out its app in 2013, the main incentive for people to use it was introduced a year later. It was then that the restaurant announced its DD Perks Rewards scheme, which awarded customers five points per dollar spent in-store if they paid via the app or with a Dunkin’ Donuts card. Members of the program enjoyed a number of perks, including free drinks.
5. 2013: Dunkin’ throwback
But while the Dunkin’ app showed that the chain was well and truly in the 21st century, the chain couldn’t resist in a bit of nostalgia in 2013 when it shared this amazing throwback on Facebook. The photo shows one of the company’s stores in the previous decade. It isn’t clear when the snap was taken, but the colorful uniforms certainly have a retro feel compared to the brown aprons staff wear today.
4. 2016: Dunkin’s cold brew
Dunkin’ Donuts added another beverage to its ever-growing menu in 2016 with the launch of a new cold drink. While this might look like coffee served over ice, in fact there’s a whole process behind the seemingly simple refreshment. At Dunkin’, the coffee is steeped overnight, resulting in a smoother flavor.
3. 2016: Dunkin dishes the tea
Dunkin’ Donuts has offered tea for a while now, but the drink was kind of overshadowed by the chain’s coffee options. However, Dunkin’ upped its game in 2016 when it expanded its tea menu to include full-leaf options and herbal varieties. They even come with fancy names, including Chamomile Fields, Hibiscus Kiss and Bold Breakfast Black.
2. Dunkin’ drops its donuts
While Dunkin’ had made a name for itself through donuts, in 2019 the chain decided that it wanted to position itself more as a “beverage-led company.” With that in mind, the restaurant became known simply as “Dunkin’” as a way of drawing more attention to the other products it has on offer.
1. 2020: Dunkin’ turns 70
In 2010 Dunkin’ celebrated its 70th birthday. The restaurant has certainly come a long way since Rosenberg opened his Quincy store. After all, there aren’t many other coffee chains that have lasted as long nor been as successful as Dunkin’ has been. Indeed, it now has some 12,000 outlets across the world.