Dunkin' Donuts is about as identifiable a New England brand as there is. So it's odd that two of its most forward-thinking stores are in St. Petersburg.
Last week, the company officially opened a new store at 1046 Fourth St. N in St. Petersburg. It's the chain's second "green" restaurant; the first was the store at 7595 Fourth St., which opened in 2008.
Both stores employ a range of eco-friendly initiatives, including LED lighting, energy-efficient building materials, recycled water for landscaping and a program to share used coffee grounds with local farmers for composting. The new store goes a step further by adding the company's first-ever electric car charging station, in addition to new features like a "grab and go" display near the registers, with healthier snacks such as fruit cups, Greek yogurt and string cheese.
At the grand opening, we talked to Nigel Travis, the president of Dunkin' Donuts and CEO of Dunkin' Brands, about St. Pete's ultra-modern stores.
How did St. Petersburg become Dunkin' Donuts' primary testing ground for green products?
It was an initiative between the local franchisee and the local community. I think the (City) Council had this green approach, and our franchisees were interested in working with it.
How closely have you followed the progress of the other green store up the street?
I wouldn't say I've followed it day by day, but I've been there. I've heard that it continues to do great things. They've evolved that store into this store, and the learnings have been passed on. It's been discussed many times in different meetings, but we've been really focusing on not necessarily the business results, but more the environmental aspects.
Is there a thing that you've learned from that store that you've tried to adapt or replicate in other stores?
The LED lighting saves money. Don't ask me how, but it does. This store is going to save 100,000 gallons of water per year. It basically captures all the rainwater and the air-conditioning water and recycles it through the landscaping. That's been powerful. I think one thing they're trying to build in more and more stores is the foam inside the concrete walls. That, particularly in areas like this, keeps all the energy inside. What they're trying to do with the second store is find new areas for us to go in, like the mobile charging station. I think we will continue to evolve from this.
What about this store are you going to be most interested in going forward?
I'm interested in the (vehicle) charging station. If you go back 10 years, WiFi was getting into a few restaurants. It's kind of standard now. Charging stations, will they be standard in 10 years? Will the world actually turn that far that everyone needs charging stations? And I'll be fascinated by the grab-and-go and front-case merchandising, because Dunkin', for years, has all been back-case. I'll be very interested in that.
In that 10 years' time, how do you see Dunkin' Donuts' menu evolving?
I think we'll still be selling a lot of doughnuts. I think we'll be even stronger in our beverages, because that's continued to grow steadily over time. I think our breakfast sandwiches, which have been a huge success the last two years, will have gone even further. We'll continue to test things. We have more ideas than we can cope with.