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Dunkin' pours it on

Jon Luther, Dunkin’ Brands chairman and CEO, listens to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker during the groundbreaking of a Dunkin’ Donuts on Fourth Street N at 76th Avenue.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jon Luther, Dunkin’ Brands chairman and CEO, listens to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker during the groundbreaking of a Dunkin’ Donuts on Fourth Street N at 76th Avenue.

When Dunkin' Donuts head honcho Jon Luther talks about customers and coffee preferences, he describes them in terms of rituals, soul-types and tribes.

For years, Luther said, breakfast-and-brew consumers have been practicing rituals that don't jive with their true coffee chakra: instead of the Starbucks' mermaid, they should change their java idol to the Dunkin' double-D.

"Our Dunkin' Donuts tribe, our consumer core, is on the go; they want fast and affordable," Luther said. "We have a blue-collar soul."

In other words, Luther hopes to win over people who are simply craving coffee — cheap, fast and pretension-free.

With Starbucks reporting slower earnings this year while opening fewer stores, Dunkin' Donuts is beginning a nationwide expansion, announcing plans Tuesday to grow in existing markets like Florida, as it pours into new ones. The chain also is set to open 142 stores in Alabama.

But the war for morning breakfast items isn't a two-player game. McDonald's is starting to arm its stores with built-in coffee bars, and Consumer Reports judged coffee from the golden arches as "cheapest and best" in 2007.

Cities like St. Petersburg are battlegrounds for the 7,900-store Dunkin' Donuts chain. That explains why Luther was in the city Thursday for the ground-breaking of a franchise on Fourth Street N. The location joins 22 others in Pinellas County.

Other than hefting a chrome-plated shovel, what does the CEO of a $7-billion-a-year company do while he's in St. Petersburg?

"I'm going to visit my mother," he said.

Dominick Tao can be reached

at dtao@sptimes.com

or (727) 226-3384.

About Jon Luther

. Age: 63

. Title: CEO, Dunkin' Brands since January 2003; chairman since March 2006

. Work history: President of Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits from 1997 to 2002

. Awards: Nation's Restaurant News Golden Chain award, 2005, and Chain Leadership award from Chain Leader magazine, 2006

The new store

. Set to open in September, it will be the first Dunkin' Donuts to be LEED-certified, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and requires changes like energy-efficient light fixtures, building materials and reduced landscape irrigation.

Dunkin' pours it on 05/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 26, 2008 11:05am]
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