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Why Dunkin’s Menu Strategy is all about their Employees

Dunkin Donuts recently announced plans to scale back deli sandwich offerings. No more “lunchtime” sandwiches like ham and cheese. The reason is those products weren’t selling well. CEO Nigel Travis noted the reduced menu will make operations “easier” for employees.

The argument that employee costs increase with menu expansions echoes franchisee complaints when McDonald’s announced all-day breakfast in 2015. Yet all-day breakfast was a huge success for the first year, bumping sales and pushing stock upwards.

So, why is Dunkin Donuts giving up on something that worked for McDonald’s?

In Dunkin’s case, Nigel Travis is right. The extended menu is a real problem for their employee pool, which differs from McDonald’s. And here’s why:

The typical Dunkin Donuts employees are focused and great at attention to detail. StellarEmploy discovered this when we helped a franchisee client improve sales by $50 per day per employee. Being a great Dunkin employee means getting the specifics (cream, sweetener) of a coffee order right, and choosing the correct bagels or donuts. It takes 1-2 people to fill every order.

When something like a deli sandwich hits the menu, the work requirements change. The staff may reorganize so a third person makes sandwiches. It’s no longer as simple as preparing a coffee drink. Dunkin Donuts’ ideal employees are not well-suited for this new work environment.

If Dunkin Donuts cannot adopt a more complicated menu, why could McDonald’s?

StellarEmploy doesn’t have McDonald’s clients, but we’ll use data from our Burger King franchise clients here. Great Burger King crew members are natural multi taskers. Three or four employees work together to fill orders, and the menu list is already extensive. Adding new menu items complicates the team organization less than it would at Dunkin Donuts.

Mr. Travis may not have thought about the unique characteristics of Dunkin Donuts’ best team members when he decided to cut lunch sandwiches. But we’re betting the top-performing crew members will perform even better without the hassle of lunch sandwiches. And it will spell higher profits for everyone.

Sara Nadel is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of StellarEmploy.