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Coffee Giants Brewing Up Business

Bracha Arnold
October 31, 2023
Coffee Giants Brewing Up Business

When it comes to coffee chains, Starbucks and Dunkin' reign supreme, serving java lovers across the nation and beyond. Dutch Bros. is catching up to the two coffee giants, thanks to its ongoing expansion. As Q3 draws to a close, we look at how the three chains are performing.

Starbucks & Dunkin’: Different Visitation Patterns

Starbucks and Dunkin’ are the two largest coffee chains in the country, boasting thousands of locations from coast to coast. Both experienced positive year-over-year (YoY) growth for most of 2023, though Dunkins’ visits dipped slightly into August and September 2023 while Starbucks’ foot traffic spiked – perhaps thanks to its well-received Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) and other fall treats.  With its earliest-ever release date of August 24th, the PSL launch provided a significant boost in foot traffic to the chain during the week of the launch and the following weeks. Meanwhile, Dunkin’ saw a more muted reaction to its fall drink menu, which launched on August 16th. With winter menus dropping soon, both chains will have another opportunity to boost foot traffic to their stores.

But Starbucks’ seasonal success may not be the only factor helping the brand maintain its visit growth, even as Dunkin’ traffic lags. The discrepancy in household incomes (HHI) between the two chains may also explain the divergence in foot traffic patterns. Starbucks tends to attract patrons from higher income areas compared with its Massachusetts-based counterpart, so the relative affluence of Starbucks customers may make them more inclined to indulge in the affordable luxury of a latte on the go. Still, the relatively minor YoY visit gaps posted by Dunkin’ despite the wider economic headwinds shows that Dunkin’ fans are – for the most part – still willing to shell over a couple of bucks for a caffeine boost or a sweet indulgence.

Dutch Bros: Continuing To Exceed All Expectations

Initially starting as a pushcart in Oregon in 1992, Dutch Bros. has become a major player in the coffee segment. The company, which prides itself on its friendly service and high-quality java, experienced foot traffic growth in nearly all months analyzed – visits in September visits were 14.8% higher in 2023 than in 2022.  

And the company is not resting on its laurels and enjoying its success – Dutch Bros. has set its sights on opening 150 new stores in 2023, and has opened 38 new stores between June 2022 and June 2023 so far.

So far, Dutch Bros.’ new stores do not seem to be cannibalizing visits from existing venues, with average visits per venue up YoY across the store fleet – meaning that Dutch Bros. locations are getting more crowded, even as the chain continues to grow. August and September 2023 saw 8.6% and 1.6% more visits per venue than last year, and this trend is not new – the company has kept its average visits per venue numbers up across all metrics throughout 2022 and 2021. The company hopes to operate over 4,000 stores over the next 10 to 15 years – and if its foot traffic is any indication, these stores will be met with steady demand.

Final Sips

Coffee has continued to be a resilient consumer segment, with patrons still lining up for a cup of joe despite economic headwinds. With a closely-watched holiday season fast approaching, will customers indulge in a festive wintery drink from their favorite coffee chain, or will they choose to put that money into gifts for friends and family?

Visit to find out.

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