What the Church Can Learn from Dunkin Donuts


Dunkin Donuts is creaming Starbucks right now. Dunkin won the taste test, it’s 3 times cheaper, and the company is actually expanding whereas Starbucks is closing stores every day. Dunkin is about to roll out a $100 million marketing campaign to trumpet the results of the taste test and try and put the dagger into the heart of Seattle. Some people are saying that Starbucks has seen its better days, and that this is just the beginning of the downhill slide.

I would propose that the church has something to learn from Dunkin Donuts.

The reason we have something to learn is that we have tried to be Starbucks. We’ve tried to be slick, trendy, and hip. We’ve tried to be a place that is non-threatening and easy to come to. And when you walk in, you see beautiful people in holy jeans and black glasses, all looking very intellectual and hair-frosty. Additionally, we have tried to make church a low-demand environment, much in the same way Starbuck’s is. It’s low demand in that even though the basic premise of the store is selling coffee, some people don’t even go there for coffee at all. And nobody’s going to pressure them about the coffee. That sounds familiar, too.

But guess what?

People like Dunkin Donuts. They like that it’s not trendy. They like that it’s not hip. They like that it’s not cool. You know why they like it?

Because it’s simple: It’s good coffee at a reasonable price.

It’s not fru-fru, latte, grande, frappa-whatchamacallit. IT’S COFFEE. And at Dunkin Donuts, they call it what it is. COFFEE.

Seems like there’s a lesson in there for us as Christ-followers somewhere. Now hear me say this – I’m all for contextualizing the gospel. But I’m also for simply proclaiming what we have to “sell” rather than trying too hard to at it.

And you know what else? The thing that we have? It actually tastes good. Maybe the problem is that we don’t really believe the gospel tastes good. We don’t believe it tastes good, so we feel the need to pile alot of stuff ontop of it to make it more palpable. Maybe if we really believed it tasted good, we would have the courage to let it speak for itself, like Dunkin did, rather than trying to help out the product so much.

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  • Becky Dietz says:

    Love the analogy. I would add that Starbuck’s has watered down their coffee until some of it doesn’t even resemble coffee anymore.

  • Amy Wright says:

    Ah! Finally! Somebody said it!! I couldn’t agree more.

  • liturgicsjay says:

    confession: last week I transferred my papers to dunkin – it’s smoother, cleaner, and CHEAPER.

    In all seriousness, I think you’re right on.

  • Adam says:

    Clicking over here from Z, I’d only read the first two paragraphs and was a bit afraid this’d be another post about how the church has to learn to market itself better.

    I’m pleasently surprised. The gospel is definitely the quality “product” that you say, and we should let it speak for itself.


  • Michael K. says:

    Thanks for clicking over Adam. Always glad to pleasantly surprise someone.

  • Drew says:

    I also clicked over from “Vitamin Z” and was surprised. It is encouraging that so many people from our generation are finally understanding and proclaiming that the Gospel is what the church has to offer. I will definitely check back with you in the future, and I may link to this post.

  • Michael K. says:

    Link away, Drew – I love riding the Vitamin Z coattails.

    Per your comment, I think our generation has been “back-door” churched to death. We want it to be hard. We want it to be challenging. We want it to be engaging to all parts of our person. in essence, I think we’re saying, “Show me something worth giving my life to.”

  • ericmckiddie says:

    You hit the nail on the head when you say we don’t believe the gospel. If we preached it like it was delicious to our souls unbelievers would find it more compelling.

  • sam says:

    The Gospel is an offense to the unregenerate. Unbelievers will NEVER find it more compelling outside of the changing of the heart by the Holy Spirit.

  • Bill Seaver says:

    Well said. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Jason Hale says:

    Good post Michael. I still prefer Starbucks…haha, but also love a good donut.
    All that to say, point well taken. A couple of years ago Starbucks went a little crazy in developing new stores and attempted to do too much and as a result the quality of there product did suffer. Something to learn there I think.
    I want a donut now.

  • Donna Coggin says:

    Michael, I love the analogy. Alot of people who’ve never had an interest in coffee learned to love it at Starbucks, though….maybe because it IS trendy and hip. Some have discovered a deep love for the simple cuppa joe and are drawn to Dunkin for the satisfaction of having just that. Others can’t imagine coffee without the fru-fru, latte, whatchamacallit because that makes the coffee different, taste better. I always start my morning with a simple cup of coffee; but many an afternoon the only thing that will satisfy is a tall mocha latte!
    My point? The coffee is in both; you can taste the coffee in both; I’m glad I have both to choose from.

    “Taste and see that the Lord is good” Ps 34:8

  • Matt H says:

    I think it is a great analogy, too. Making matters worse, many churches try the trendy approach only after seeing it somewhere else. By the time it is implemented in churches, it is no longer trendy. We really jeopardize the effectiveness of our message by aiming for trendy, which we often miss because it is a constantly moving target. Better to aim at the simple truth as you suggest.

  • Michael K. says:

    Thanks for these insightful comments, guys.

    Donna – I see your point; the coffee is in both. And there is a “market” for both. I would argue, though, that the market for the Starbucks church is growing smaller and that the “seeker-sensitive” days are quickly getting behind us. I’m going to post on later in the week, so keep reading – love to know what you think.

    Matt – This is another good point. The church does sort of lag behind, and your language is right on with “the constantly moving target.”

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