Today, 6408 Ringgold Road is a bare lot. But by July, the percolators should start brewing coffee at a new Dunkin’ Donuts store planned for the location.
Franchisee David Baumgartner expects the East Ridge Dunkin’ to have brisk drive-thru sales, as he predicts the new eatery will serve 3,400 to 4,500 customers in a given week.
It will employ about 20 mostly part-time workers.
The location in East Ridge is a strategic move for the franchise that—despite the name—primarily relies on its coffee sales.
It’s a third of a mile from Interstate 75 and positioned on the "a.m. side of the road," Baumgartner said.
In other words, it’s a convenient right-hand turn for anyone leaving their East Ridge neighborhoods on their way to work.
Furthermore, many out-of-towners "look for Dunkin’s to get their cup of java," he said.
To that end, he plans on working to get the Dunkin’ location advertised along the side of the interstate with the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Logo Sign Program.
Providing convenient coffee
In the South, Baumgartner said, people view the chain that started in Quincy, Massachusetts, as a doughnut shop, but the brand primarily focuses on beverages.
When Dunkin’ enters a new market, there’s a bit of an education that goes on, he said.
Dunkin’ serves up more coffee by the cup than any other retailer and more bagels than any other national retailer, Baumgartner said.
Because Dunkin’ was an early adaptor to selling iced coffee, they sell more iced coffee than any other retailer combined, said Baumgartner, who primarily drinks his coffee hot, black and only from Dunkin’.
It's the demand for coffee that drives the growth of Dunkin’ locations.
"People will drive for a doughnut," Baumgartner said.
When it comes to coffee, however, consumers want their coffee options convenient and close at hand.
Plans to expand
Baumgartner’s first store opened in November 2009—just around the time Dunkin' Brands Inc. announced it was looking for franchisees in Tennessee and Georgia.
Less than 10 years later, the East Ridge location will be one of nearly two dozen Dunkin’ stores owned and operated by the Bluemont Group, which lists on its website the locations it operates, from Murfreesboro to Knoxville to Fort Oglethorpe.
In the future, Baumgartner, who is also managing partner and president of area franchisee Bluemont Group, is looking to aggressively grow the number of Dunkin’ stores in the region, though he has no specific plans as to how many new stores he wants to create.
Baumgartner is looking for other locations near the interstate, such as Ooltewah and maybe another in Dalton.
There’s potential to expand farther south in Georgia, as motorists need to drive Interstate 75 a good distance before they pass another Dunkin’, he said.
A regional bakery hub
Another sign that Dunkin’ Donuts is becoming established in North Georgia and East Tennessee is the fact that Bluemont Group plans to open a bakery in Ringgold, just off Interstate 75.
The reason is to streamline the doughnut making process. Instead of baking doughnuts and applying the powdered sugar and frosting at each individual store, it can all be done in one place—and then the goods will be trucked to the region’s Dunkin’ stores.
Baumgartner wants to locate the bakery in Georgia because he hopes to supply baked goods to Dunkin’ Donuts stores he doesn’t own farther down the I-75 corridor.
The bakery is similar to how Dunkin’ franchises operate in places like Chicago, Florida and the Northeast.
According to the Boston Globe, there are some areas of the Northeast that have a Dunkin’ location for every 5,000 people.
Daniel Jackson is a contributing writer.