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Want to Own a Dunkin' Donuts Franchise? Know This First

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Benson: It's a good time to be a Dunkin' Donuts franchisee because of the concepts that Dunkin' Donuts is -- a value proposition, that has a quality product at a valued price, a very attractive menu in the morning, during the day and a growing evening snack. It's an investment that, from a capital standpoint, is reasonable given the sales levels that our units are generally able to drive. It really makes a great business opportunity.

One of the other things is that Dunkin' has the benefit of being able to offer our developers multiple formats in which to enter a market. They can go in with freestanding locations with drive-through; an end-cap strip-center location with drive-through; they can go inline, possibly without a drive-through, in some of the dense urban areas. We can partner with gas-convenience chains. We find ourselves at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and grocery stores. All of those different concepts in that portfolio really allow the Dunkin' franchisee to be able to match the opportunity with a concept that fits the potential of that area.

It may be different from a lot of other concepts where it is pretty much a cookie-cutter plan. It's much more flexible.

It also sounds like just like a whole variety of different investment levels as well.

Benson:Yes. That's the beauty of it. It allows us to go into some of the best real estate where we think the sales are going to be the absolute highest or fill in our more densely penetrated markets with smaller locations that still help us gain market share and provide guests convenience, but don't require the capital intensity or the development lead times and don't put you through the zoning and permitting challenges that full freestanding locations may need.

In the franchise world, a lot of talk today is around multi-unit ownership. Is that required?

Benson: Although we've got franchisees that have up to a couple hundred locations, the average franchisee in the Dunkin' system probably is somewhere in the neighborhood of a half a dozen locations.

We like to see a minimum of five locations or so, but there are situations where that is just not possible given the opportunity left within a market or other factors.

We really like that franchisee to be able to play in the whole portfolio of concepts. Someone who is committed to five or six stores could probably have some of the lower capital concepts in there, and it really allows them to diversify that portfolio out a bit and it also allows them to be able to fund the infrastructure necessary to build a team and create bench strength within their networks.

So who would make a good Dunkin franchisee? One of the things that we really do value is previous restaurant experience. That's very important. With some of the smaller locations, that may not be an absolute requirement if there was other business experience where people were able to demonstrate that they had managed a business, they built a team, they were responsible for a profit-and-loss statement, and they understood the nuances of that.