By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) — Dunkin’ Donuts wants to open 9,000 new stores.
It’s an ambitious goal for any retailer in this climate. And it might seem especially bold for Dunkin’, which said this summer it is drastically slowing expansion plans.
But scaling down while refining a new concept and then ramping up was always the brand’s plan, said R.J. Hottovy, an analyst who covers the brand for Morningstar. Over the summer, Dunkin’ said it would pare down its menu at some locations, remodel stores, bring in new equipment and sell more food in supermarkets and other non-Dunkin’ locations.
The company has already started slimming its menu, and plans to continue to do so.
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“I’m sure they tested aspects of new concept to give them more confidence about expansion plans,” Hottovy added.
The plan has given Dunkin’ Donuts the confidence it can pull off doubling its stores, “unlike most companies in this sector,” Dunkin’ Brands CEO Nigel Travis said at the ICR conference in Orlando on Tuesday. Travis didn’t give a time frame for launching the new locations.
18,000 Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t a joke — that would be a lot of stores. That would put it far ahead of 7-11, which has about 8,300 U.S. stores, and Starbucks, which has nearly 14,000 stores in the United States.
Although doubling the number of locations is a big undertaking, R.J. Hottovy, an analyst who covers the brand for Morningstar, thinks Dunkin’ can pull it off — if the chain does it right.
One way to do that is by focusing on building new locations with drive-thrus.
“We think the drive-thru can be taken to a new level, and that’s what people want,” said Travis.
Leading Dunkin’s drive-thru business is David Hoffman, who left McDonald’s to take over as the doughnut chain’s president in 2016. Hoffman’s perspective as an outsider with years of experience, Hottovy noted, bodes well for Dunkin’s success.
And Dunkin’ recently announced another McDonald’s veteran, Rick ColÃ³n, as senior vice president of operations and development.
“I think they’ve got the right team,” said Hottovy.
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Dunkin’ thinks drive-thrus will help lure in customers rushing to pick up coffee on their way to work.
He expects the company to unveil more about its new store concepts during its Investor Day in February.
In addition to drive-thrus, those concepts may…