Dunkin' Donuts is returning to Southern California, planning to open franchises in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange counties starting in 2015.
The Canton, Mass.-based company said an initial push will likely involve about 150 Southland stores but that the state could someday see as many as 1,000.
[Updated, 7:45 a.m. Jan. 16: The chain had a small presence in the state at one point, but closed down all its California shops by the late 1990s. A brief comeback attempt in Sacramento in 2002 didn't last.
In July 2011, Dunkin's initial public offering reignited hopes from analysts and fans that the chain -- half of whose locations are in "fortress markets" of New England and New York -- would head back west.]
Dunkin' Donuts also said it opened 291 net new stores in the U.S. in 2012 and plans to open as many as 360 new outlets this year. The company said it is looking for more openings in venues such as colleges and universities, casinos, military bases, supermarkets and airports.
The company said it intends to eventually have more than 15,000 Dunkin' Donuts stops nationwide. Already, the business sells 1.7 billion cups of coffee every year, according to the NPD Group, a research firm.
Executives on a conference call with reporters said they expect competition from national brands such as McDonald's and Starbucks, regional convenience store chains and more local brands such as Winchell's.
[Updated, 8 a.m. Jan. 16: "Everywhere in the country is competitive now," said Chief Executive Nigel Travis in an interview. "We've competed pretty well."
But it should be the stores without chain locations who worry most, Travis suggested.
"The independents mostly don't have the marketing clout of major chains," he said. "Often we pick up share from independents rather than directly from Starbucks, McDonald's or anyone else."]