Coffee Wars: Starbucks v. Dunkin’ Donuts


The exterior of a Starbucks joint, located in Shunde, Guangdong, China. Photo by user Zhaofeng Li on Wikimedia

Many might say that a true Massachusetts resident is always a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts. However, I am and always will be a Starbucks fanatic. It may seem odd considering the amount of Dunkins throughout the country and also considering the fact that “America Runs on Dunkins.”

However, I run on Starbucks.

There are a number of factors that make Starbucks a better option than Dunkin’ Donuts for me, the first being the overall aura. Dunkin’ Donuts gives off a cold vibe that says, “Get your drink and get out.” Cold air-conditioning, bright lights and lack of seating are among these traits.

Starbucks, on the other hand, has a much kinder way about it. Their vibe is more like “Stay, enjoy your drink and get a refill.” Dim lights, comfy couches, free WiFi, plenty of seating and outlets. This may seem like a trick to get you to buy more for staying longer, but either way, I would much rather get my drink and spend some time studying at Starbucks for an hour in a comfortable leather couch than try to do the same at Dunkin’ Donuts with a 30-minute limit on seating and not much table space.

The next factor that compares the two is taste. I find Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is overly sweetened and has an odd flavor, whereas Starbucks is stronger and more decadent, not to mention they have several different drinks, including the new “caramel flan” latte.

The menu is constantly being updated, and if you cannot find something you think you would enjoy, you can also order whatever you want. You can add different pumps and shots to customize your own beverage. When I try this at Dunkin’ Donuts, I end up getting an eye roll and a deep sigh. I have never, in my experience, had bad customer service at Starbucks: I am always treated with respect, and even a minor mess-up on my order results in a free drink card and a smile.

Another thing is the reward factor of Starbucks. The rewards program allows members to earn stars for every purchase, adding up to a grand total of a certain amount of stars meaning you can become a gold level. Becoming gold level makes you receive several benefits such as free refills on your drinks and special offers. You can also pay right from your phone. Dunkin’ Donuts may try to copy this idea, but it does not work as well as Starbucks.

The food also sets them apart. Dunkin’ Donuts is filled with breakfast foods including bagels, muffins, cookies, coffee rolls and of course the famous donuts. Starbucks sticks to a cafe-like menu, including muffins, pastries, paninis, mini-cakes, scones, cake-pops and yogurt parfaits. These are up to your personal preference; I rarely get any food items with my drink.

The strongest benefit to Dunkin’ Donuts is the price. A medium coffee there goes for about $2.00 depending on the specific chain. At Starbucks this would be about $5.00, which could add up quickly, but is worth every penny to me. Also, Dunkin’ Donuts has more places in the area. I could easily walk to any location rather than having to make my mom drive me to Starbucks or take a bus for twenty minutes. This is not as convenient but again, still worth it to me.

When choosing between the two, keep in mind the type of drink you want and your price limit. Also, means of transportation come in handy. Many will choose the Dunkin’ Donuts a block away rather than the Starbucks a mile away. Once you start getting bored with the medium iced latte everyone seems to love, try giving Starbucks a try. There is a range of choices that surely can please anyone, from iced tea lemonade to chai tea to any preference of coffee drinks.

There is also a wide range of non-coffee drinks. Many do not want to try Starbucks because they dislike the bitter taste of coffee, but keep in mind that you can always get something else.

So overall, if I need a quick pick-me-up, Dunkin’ Donuts will do the job. However, I would much rather prefer a skinny vanilla latte with two pumps of caramel from Starbucks than any other drink.

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