Monday, March 07, 2005

A more perfect pastry…

Bryan Curtis wrote an entertaining article in Slate this week. Some excerpts:

Something is amiss at Dunkin' Donuts. The store's loyal constituents—cops, firemen, construction workers—report disturbing sightings of soy milk. The Boston Globe says that the doughnut titan has hired a professional chef—trained in Europe—to perfect its new steak, egg, and cheese sandwich, which features "a higher-quality piece of meat and scrambled eggs instead of a fried egg."

Some Chicago-area Dunkin' outlets are dabbling with wireless Internet, which had previously been the domain of high-end joints like Starbucks. One could be forgiven for thinking that Dunkin' Donuts, home of the blue-collar masses, purveyor of some of the most frightening fast-food on the planet, was angling for middlebrow respectability.

Dunkin' Donuts still boasts some gruesome pleasures: "The Great One," a 24-ounce coffee chalice, and the Double Chocolate Cake Donut, which carries 310 calories and has the texture and density of igneous rock. But over the past five years the chain has sought to burnish its pastries with a glaze of class: Dunkin' Donuts is reinventing itself as an upstairs-downstairs coffee house. It wants to lure more white-collar customers while tending to its loyal base of proles. As its chief executive officer, Jack Shafer, boasted in 1998, "Our average customer would be as likely to pull up in a BMW or Lexus as they would be to pull up in a pickup truck or on foot."

The middlebrowing of Dunkin' Donuts reverses a half-century of blue-collar bona fides. For years, Dunkin' Donuts embodied the working-class ethos of its founder, Bill Rosenberg, who was raised in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood during the Great Depression. Rosenberg had a reputation as a hustler and street fighter. He had little use for a formal education—he dropped out of school in the eighth grade—but was wont to enter dreamy reveries over baked pastry. His 2001 memoir, Time to Make the Donuts, is testament to their inebriating power. "Boy, those big jelly donuts, yeast raised with granulated sugar on the outside, were so loaded with jelly that when we took a bite out of one, it would squirt. It was fantastic! … This great experience left an indelible memory of how donuts meant so much to me."


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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