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
or (727) 226-3384.