Dunkin' is an integral part of daily life for New Englanders. Sleepy workers wake themselves up with a cup of Dunkin's famous coffee every morning. During the week, rebellious teens grab a Coolatta from the chain while playing hooky from school. Mom and Dad linger over coffee and Boston Kremes while the little ones indulge in a box of Munchkins and watch Saturday morning cartoons. On Sunday afternoon, Grandpa brings a box of doughnuts to share with his grandkids while he watches the Patriots game.

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New England is home to about a third of the Dunkin' locations in the US. Some towns in Massachusetts have a Dunkin' per capita rate of 1 for about every 1000 people. The Boston Globe wrote in 2014 that the state had just one supermarket per every 10,000 residents. That means that in many areas, people have easier access to a Dunkin' than a grocery store. In 2018, the Seattle Times reported that 47% of Bostonians had visited a Dunkin' in the previous 30 days. So, how did this chain become so entrenched in New England culture, and who started it? Read on for answers.

The Early Days Of Dunkin'

In the late 1940s, William Rosenberg decided to open a restaurant in Quincy, Massachusetts after having served coffee and doughnuts to constructions workers from his food truck (or "roach coach" as his wife called it). The Boston native named his business, "Open Kettle." He based his menu on what had made his food truck so successful: coffee and doughnuts. By 1950, the entrepreneur had grown tired of the name but was looking to expand. His architect, Bernard Healy, came up with Dunkin' Donuts. He thought it was perfect since that's what people did with these pastries--dunk them in coffee.

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In an oral history, published by Boston Magazine, Healy's son recalls how his father made the original sign in his basement. The "D" was about ten feet high. The architect had to abbreviate both "Dunkin'" and "Donuts" since the full-length words wouldn't fit on the building.

Rosenberg's restaurant was extremely successful and he began entering into franchise agreements so that entrepreneurs could open Dunkin' Donuts at other locations. Rosenberg was famously meticulous about quality control. For example, he wrote 94 pages of specifications just about coffee beans to ensure that franchisees met his rigorous standards. Rosenberg would visit any Dunkin' he passed by. If he didn't like their products, he would throw out their inventory and demand they improve.

Over the next 60 years, the brand continued growing. The CEO changed. The restaurants changed. A new company bought out the original owner. They stopped focusing so much on donuts and more on coffee. They stopped using ceramic mugs, but one thing remained the same: the original location never closed.

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Today, people visiting Boston can easily take a trip to neighboring Quincy to check out the original Dunkin'. The restaurant is usually busy and has a slightly different menu than other locations, but in most ways, it's just another Dunkin'. Lex Delany accurately captures its vibe in his Google review: "Had a black coffee and an old fashioned. Interesting spot, I expected more parking and a touristy vibe being store #1, nope. Just small and humble. I like it."

What To Order At Dunkin'

People from other regions of the US or other countries may wonder what to try at the chain. After all, Dunkin' boasts that there are more than 15,000 ways to order coffee, and the doughnut menu has more than 50 styles to choose from. The best advice for visitors is that they try the items that made the restaurant famous.

Classic Coffee

William Rosenberg was a coffee-lover. He hated burnt brew and went to great lengths to ensure that his restaurants serve only top-quality joe. Today, even after changing ownership several times, the chain still says they brew new coffee every 18 minutes. The recipe has been the same for over 50 years.

Coolatta

In the mid-1990s Dunkin' began offering coffee-flavored ice cream shakes called Coolattas. They attracted a younger set of customers. The drink was so popular that company management recalls how some franchisees would jump in their cars and drive to distribution centers when they ran out of the mix.

The Boston Kreme

This doughnut, named for Massachusett's capital city, is a chocolate frosted, vanilla-cream-filled dream. This is a must-try item for anyone at Dunkin'.

The Strawberry Frosted

Terrence Doyle, a writer for Eater unashamedly promotes his favorite order at Dunkin'--the strawberry frosted. It is simply a traditional doughnut with strawberry frosting and sprinkles. Not much can go wrong with that.

Munchkins

Munchkins are the Dunkin' brand's name for doughnut holes. A franchisee suggested that the company add them to the menu in the 1970s. Apparently, the little round treats saved Dunkin' from financial ruin.

It is fitting that this fundamentally New Englander chain share its birthplace with two US presidents. Dunkin' has had an impact on culinary and financial history--it was the third food-service company to go public. So, as diners at the Quincy Dunkin' sip their coffee and dunk in a Strawberry Frosted, they should take a moment of pause to think about its humble origins.

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