Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dunkin' to give table service a try?

Press coverage of a zoning board meeting is usually a viable alternative to Ambien. If you're not in REM sleep by paragraph four, it's time to cut back on the Red Bull.

But a recent report from Middlebury, Conn., would make a fast-food executive snap upright with the alertness typically reserved for a letter from the IRS. The news article recounted the efforts of a local Dunkin' Donuts franchisee to secure the go-ahead for a new store inside an existing building there.

That per se has all the excitement of a supermarket special on canned okra. But the story by Voices, a local newspaper, revealed that the proposed donut outlet would sport 58 seats, or far more than is typical for a 1,100-square-foot donut shop. As a lawyer for the franchisee was quoted as telling the Planning and Zoning Commission, "Fifty-eight seats are not normally expected in a take-out restaurant."

That's because the unit plans to add table service, Voices quoted attorney Michael McVerry as saying.

Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin' Donuts' sister chain, has experimented with the sort of modified service that's become routine in the fast-casual restaurant market. At the Baskin-Robbins Cafe that opened in the summer of 2008, guests place their ice cream or coffee orders and take a seat. A staff member bring them their orders.

McVerry didn't reveal whether that's what Dunkin' has in mind for the new Middlebury store. But he did note that the concept has been drifting upmarket through changes like the addition of sandwiches and bagels.

Might the chain be thinking about adding table service?

We'll see, because the Dunkin' development was approved.

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