A little coffee company from Seattle opened their doors in 1972 to serve their own coffee roasts to the good people of Seattle. Just a few decades later, Starbucks coffee has become a behemoth in the coffee industry. These days, no matter where you live in the United States, outside of the smallest country towns, there seems to be a Starbucks on every corner. In bigger cities, it is not even an uncommon sight to see a Starbucks right across the street from another Starbucks. Comedian Lewis Black even has a joke about the phenomenon.
Starbucks became the kings of the fast-food coffee world seemingly overnight by offering what other fast-food coffee shops couldn’t possibly offer in terms of selection. At Starbucks, you can get any kind of coffee you could possibly want, served any way you like it. The other fast food places who simply offered regular coffee couldn’t possibly compete with the selection that Starbucks offered.
Starbucks had the coffee market in its back pocket. They raised their prices multiple times, and still enjoyed plentiful business and a steady growth in sales no matter what they did. In the mid-nineties, Dunkin’ Donuts noticed that Starbucks still dominated the coffee market, even with extremely high prices, and decided to try to get in on the game while undercutting Starbucks in price. Dunkin decided to add espresso drinks to the menu and started making lattes, mochas and frappuccinos with a much smaller price tag. This seemed like a direct attack on Starbucks, and the first real competition for the brand since their rise to the top of the coffee market.
Then, in 1999, McDonalds decided to jump into the game and start offering their own espresso drinks. Following in the footsteps of Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds decided to launch their McCafe brand at very competitive prices. Once Dunkin’ and McDonalds new coffee brands had established themselves on the market, it became clear that there was enough coffee business for all three competitors to share in the wealth.
Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds both set out to take a share of the market away from Starbucks, and though they both have successfully established their own slice of the coffee pie, their emergence in the market has not dramatically diminished the Starbucks brand, or really hurt their sales significantly. In fact, Starbucks has seen some growth during this period. Not only is Starbucks still in the lead in coffee sales, but they have seen some growth. While McDonalds and Dunkin’ made efforts to increase their sales in the specialty coffee market, Starbucks expanded their food selection.
Starbucks still sees great coffee sales numbers even with all the cheaper competition on the market because they are considered the premium option. Starbucks customers proved that they were willing to pay the premium price for the premium joe several times before the coffee war even began, back when Starbucks raised their prices multiple times. Now that there are less expensive espresso-based coffee drinks on the market, people seem even more willing to pay a little extra to continue to enjoy their trusted brand.
So instead of hitting Starbucks where it hurts, it seems that Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds just carved out their own niche in the market and have barely hurt Starbucks at all. Instead, Starbucks reigns as king of the coffee industry, while Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds are fighting a coffee war against each other for second place.
Taste tests conducted on the internet tend to back up this data as well, as Starbucks usually takes the top spot when fast food coffee brands are ranked, either in a competition based on the taste of the take out coffee they offer, or the pre-ground blends they sell in grocery stores around the country. Starbucks is generally more beloved than either Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s McCafe line.
As for who wins the battle for second place, Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonalds, taste tests lean slightly towards crowning Dunkin’ Donuts the winner over McDonalds, however, when it comes to sales, McDonalds has the slight edge in the market. This might be because of the great deals McDonalds offers on their espresso drinks, including lattes, mochas, and frappuccinos for as little as two dollars a piece.
If McDonalds continues to have specials on lattes for as low as two dollars each, it’s going to be very hard for Dunkin’ Donuts to compete with them, and that could have a serious impact on Dunkin’ Donuts bottom line in future years. So who will win the coffee war, and who has the best coffee, the best prices, and the best chance to compete with Starbucks for the coffee crown? As we take a look at Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds coffee, we’ll give you the low down on the best that each of these two companies have to offer in the coffee world.
Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee
Dunkin’ Donuts used to just offer regular coffee and a wide variety of donuts for their customers. Then, in the mid-nineties, they decided to make a run at Starbucks, and started offering a full gamut of espresso drinks. Now, they’ve added even more variety to their menu, and even offer cold brew beverages and more.
Dunkin’ Donuts now offers regular coffees, iced coffees, cold brew coffees, americanos, iced americanos, lattes, iced lattes, a large variety of flavored signature lattes, and flavored signature iced lattes, macchiatos, iced macchiatos, cappuccinos, iced cappuccinos, and espresso shots. Items on the Dunkin Donuts menu can be made with the type of milk and flavored syrups of your choice, and as much variety as you might expect for a company that is trying to compete with Starbucks for part of the specialty coffee market.
Dunkin’ Donuts original roast is an average, non-offensive, but unspectacular coffee. As for their specialty coffees, reviews have been rather mixed and generally vary between above average to very bad. Their mocha has received mostly pleasant reviews, while their caramel frappuccino was called out multiple times for its strange aftertaste. One reviewer commenting on the Dunkacinno refused to call it a coffee and would only refer to it as a beverage. The author went on to say that he wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Duncan Donuts beverage recipe consisted of, “sackcloth, and/or ashes.”
McDonalds has become a game changer in the coffee war by offering a good chunk of their specialty coffee drinks at budget friendly prices, such as a regular coffee of any size for just one dollar, or a small latte or mocha, or even frappuccino for just two dollars. If they continue to offer their coffee drinks at prices like these, Dunkin’ Donuts is going to have to follow suit in order to compete. With prices so low, will Dunkin’ Donuts be able to match and still maintain their quality? Will they be able to compete with McDonalds in both quality and price? Only time will tell.
McDonalds Coffee line McCafe was a bit of a late entry into the mid-nineties coffee war, as they came into the picture just after the turn of the century. McDonalds used to just serve regular coffee as an option alongside the food items on their breakfast menu. Then, in 2009, McDonalds launched their McCafe line, offering a full menu of espresso drinks to enter the battle for coffee supremacy against Starbucks and Dunkin.
McDonalds McCafe original blend is a non-offensive, medium-roast coffee that will help wake you up in the morning. The McCafe espresso line has earned mostly positive reviews since its short time on the market. And it would be hard to criticize the quality of an espresso drink that cost you less than five dollars, especially when that is the price you have become accustomed to paying at Starbucks. However, at McDonalds, there are several espresso drinks on the menu for as little as two dollars. With prices like that, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that McDonalds has started to gain some
Today at McDonalds, you can get coffees, lattes, iced lattes, americanos, cappuccinos, and much, much more. Anything you can get at Dunkin’ Donuts, you will also find at the golden arches, and you are likely to find it available cheaper as well. With prices like these, it will force Dunkin’ Donuts to drop their prices in order to stay competitive, but whether or not it will affect the bottom line at Starbucks has yet to be seen.
The Bottom Line
Though Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds have not done much in the way of challenging Starbucks for coffee supremacy, they have effectively carved out their own niche in the fast food coffee market. Both of these chains now offer a much wider selection of coffee and espresso based drinks, and now there are two options that are cheaper than Starbucks where you can get a good cup of coffee. Though neither of these chains have overpowered Starbucks, their competition, if nothing else, has been a good thing for the average coffee consumer.