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National Coffee Day: Does America Really Run on Dunkin’?

Coffee may not be native to the U.S., but it has held its status as an American staple for more than a century. Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are the two biggest coffee chains in the nation and can certainly spark heated debates over who serves the best brew. In honor of National Coffee day, we conducted our own study to identify foot traffic patterns at Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks store locations across the country.

Dunkin’ Donuts is America’s most popular coffee chain, but Starbucks owns breakfast time.

Dunkin’ Donuts famous slogan does hold true, as the 68-year-old brand easily generates the highest number of unique visitors over the course of our 2 week study. Interestingly enough, Mondays have the least foot traffic for both chains, with a drop of almost 400K in-store visitors compared to Tuesday. One would think that a busy Monday morning would be ideal for a latte, but the data shows that maybe people are too busy to even stop by for cup of Joe. We found that 28% more people visit Starbucks in the morning than they do Dunkin’ Donuts, even though the gap does start to narrow around lunch time.

That Starbucks owns the AM rush is no surprise–most of the chain’s advertising promotes coffee drinking, typically a morning activity for most. That said, Starbucks did recently expand its “Happy Hour” promotions from just Frappuccino’s to several other beverages, but that doesn’t seem to be helping foot traffic during the 3pm-6pm promotional window. Dunkin’ Donuts’ strong showing during this same time frame could be attributed to the emphasis on all-day food offers and rewards.

Americans love to drink coffee, and there are tons of people with strong preferences on their favorite place to get it. Using ads, Dunkin’ Donuts has tried to position itself as an all-day destination and it’s paying off. In a sample of ads, Dunkin’ Donuts advertised food options 200% more compared to Starbucks. For coffee ads, Starbucks had 90% more compared to Dunkin.

Starbucks seems to be struggling to keep up with Dunkin’s momentum, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value here for marketers looking to target customers during lunch and dinner hours- both brands are consistently driving foot traffic and revenue from a macro point of view, so marketers should aim to look deeper into the nuances of foot traffic in each location, in order to create informed location based strategies.

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