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Dunkin’ Donuts to expand in West, but not to California — yet

For months, California fans of the Dunkin’ Donuts chain have posted messages and videos online to gleefully trade rumors that the shops — a favorite of East Coast cops and night owls — would soon be back in California.

The company finally announced expansion plans in the West, but they didn’t include the Golden State.

“We don’t have a time set for California,” said John Dawson, chief development officer for Dunkin’ Brands. “But when we enter, we’re going to enter strong and it’ll be something very few people will miss.”

Dunkin’s successful initial public offering in July had analysts suspecting that the chain would be expanding in the West. The company formerly had a presence in Los Angeles and other parts of California, but all of its shops in California closed in the late 1990s.

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There was a comeback attempt in 2002 when a Dunkin’ opened in Sacramento, but it didn’t last.

The company has outlets in Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix. The announced expansion plans will bring them to Denver, Santa Fe, N.M., Albuquerque and other cities.

Half of Dunkin’s restaurants — about 3,500 locations — are outside what the company calls its “fortress markets” of New England and New York.

“Our strategy has been to develop in a disciplined, contiguous direction,” Dawson said. “We’re growing west and filling in the landscape.”

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Not likely fast enough for locals who took to Yelp last month to say they were “thrilled” at the prospect of Dunkin’s in California.

But analysts said that with all the competition in the West, especially in coffee, which now makes up a considerable part of the company’s revenue, Dunkin’ has to indeed plan carefully.

“They have to be cautious about where they get the franchises,” said Nima Samadi, an analyst with IBISWorld. “I don’t think Dunkin’ would be terribly successful in trying to unseat the premium coffee providers.”

So for now, California must settle for being the top state for sales of Dunkin’s branded bagged coffee, which is sold in grocery stores. The chain also owns dozens of Baskin-Robbins ice cream outlets in the state.

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But for ardent fans, Dunkin’ is the icon when it comes to doughnuts.

“I felt like I left a dear old friend back East when I left,” wrote Yelp user Scott B. “Whenever I return, I get one in the airport and stop what I’m doing and I slowly savor it, remembering the good times we shared.

“I named my cat Dunkin in honor of them.”

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com


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