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Starbucks and Dunkin’: 2023 in Four Data Points

by 
Lila Margalit
 on 
January 29, 2024
Starbucks and Dunkin’: 2023 in Four Data Points

High food-away-from-home prices weighed on the dining sector in 2023. But affordable indulgences were the name of the game – and for plenty of people, their daily caffeine fix remained non-negotiable. 

So with the new year gathering steam, we dove into the data to explore consumer trends impacting Starbucks and Dunkin’ in 2023. What were the biggest days of the year for the two chains? And who were the java enthusiasts driving visits to the two chains last year?

1. National Donut Day is Coming Back

The first Friday of every June is National Donut Day, an event first kicked off by the Salvation Army in the 1930’s to honor folks that served doughnuts to soldiers during the First World War. Every year, Dunkin’ marks the occasion with – you guessed it – free doughnuts, and this year wasn’t any different. On June 2, 2023, Dunkin’ fans were invited to snag a delicious free treat with the purchase of any beverage, and customers turned out in droves. 

The day turned out to be the busiest one of the year, with Dunkin’ locations seeing a 49.4% increase in foot traffic compared to the chain’s 2023 daily average. And after a couple of years when the occasion garnered somewhat less turnout, National Donut Day appears to be very much on track to regain its pre-COVID glory (The last time National Donut Day was the busiest day of the year was in 2019). Friends, it seems, really don't let friends miss out on free doughnuts. 

2. Holiday Cheer, Black Friday, and … Pumpkin Spice, Of Course!

Like many restaurant and coffee chains, Starbucks tends to be busiest on Saturdays. And in 2023, the popular coffee chain drew its biggest crowds on November 4th – the first Saturday after the launch of the eagerly-anticipated holiday menu. With mouth-watering offerings like Chestnut Praline Latte and Iced Gingerbread Oatmeal Chai, it’s no wonder customers can’t wait to indulge – especially when they can top off their drink with a Snowman Cookie or a Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop. (Luckily, the menu launch comes before those pesky new year’s resolutions.)

Starbucks’ second-busiest day of the year in 2023 was Black Friday (November 24th), as shoppers sought a quick way to fuel up or get a caffeine boost while they hit the stores. And the chain’s third-busiest day of the year was August 26th – the first Saturday after the annual release of Starbucks’ calendar-owning Pumpkin Spice Latte, a tradition that never fails to drive excitement – and foot traffic.

3. Reaching Diverse Crowds Year-Round

But who were the customers that fueled Starbucks’ and Dunkin’s foot traffic in 2023? Analyzing the two chains’ captured markets with psychographics from Spatial.ai shows that while each of them attracted a somewhat different audience, they both drew diverse crowds throughout the year. 

Starbucks, which features a cozy ambiance that encourages people to stay a while, has emerged as a popular WFH spot – and is more likely than Dunkin’ to be frequented by Young Professionals. The doughnut leader, on the other hand, boasts a to-go vibe, and draws greater shares of Suburban Boomers and Rural High-Income customers. Still, the data shows that coffee consumption is far from a zero-sum game, and in 2023, both chains attracted healthy shares of each of the analyzed segments. 

4. A Regional Coffee Game

In addition, while Starbucks customers tend to hail from more affluent areas than Dunkin’ fans, the median household income (HHI) of each chain’s customer base varied considerably by region last year – as did the extent of the HHI gap between the two chains. 

Starbucks’ most affluent customer base was in New England, where the median HHI of its captured market stood at $90.7K – a significant 19.2% higher than that of Dunkin’s ($75.8K). But in the Pacific region, including California, Dunkin’s captured market had a median HHI of $83.2K, just 2.1% lower than that of Starbucks. 

Key Takeaways

“Coffee, coffee, coffee!” may be a bit from Gilmore Girls, but it’s also a way of life for millions of Americans. And location data shows that in 2023, there was plenty of love to go around for coffee leaders like Starbucks and Dunkin’. 

How will National Donut Day and Starbucks’ holiday menu play out in 2024? And what does the new year have in store for the coffee space more generally? 

Follow Placer.ai’s data-driven analyses to find out. 

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