Dunkin’ Donuts

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Dunkin’ Donuts is an international restaurant chain specializing in doughnuts owned by Dunkin’ Brands, which also owns Baskin-Robbins. As of 2014, the company had close to 11,000 stores in 31 countries and made over 70 varieties of doughnut. The first store—initially named Open Kettle—was opened by William Rosenberg (1916–2002) and his partner Harry Winokur in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1950. It was renamed Dunkin’ Donuts about a year and half later.

Rosenberg, the son of a struggling shopkeeper in Boston, worked his way up from a job as an ice cream truck driver during the Depression to owning, in partnership with Winokur, a mobile catering company in the aftermath of World War II. The New England–based business involved dispensing sandwiches, coffee, and a variety of sweet snacks, including doughnuts, from food trucks parked outside of factories. Noting the profit margin on coffee and doughnuts, as well as the success of Mayflower and comparable stores, and despite the objections of his business partner, Rosenberg decided to launch that first doughnut outlet in Quincy. At the time, doughnut shops typically limited their offerings to three or four flavors, but the fried dough entrepreneur experimented with dozens. Rosenberg writes in his autobiography that he was inspired to offer so many kinds by the proximity of the first Howard Johnson (also in Quincy), which sold some 28 flavors of ice cream. Unlike his competitors’ stores, where patrons bought their pastries to go, Rosenberg included counters, stools, and a variety of beverages to encourage customers to linger. At many of the original outlets the bakers were visible through a window, hand-cutting the doughnuts and frying several batches a day to ensure freshness. See doughnuts.