Talk to me like I’m stupid


Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    Back in an ancient times, or so it is said, the point was Donuts.

    I heard that McDonald’s got a major boost from serving the all-day-breakfast market. Wondering if it has something do with staggered hours in low-paid jobs and Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc., workers commuting off bleary-eyed and in a hurry anywhere from very early morning to early afternoon. Or maybe I’m also stupid.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      Speaking for myself, the Egg McMuffin is the only foodlike product McDonald’s sells that I consider edible, much less enjoyable (and, for what it is worth, much better than Dunkin’ Donut’s version). Even as a teenager I hated McDonald’s. I was known to skip meals on school trips if that was where the bus stopped–and I wasn’t a meal-skipping kind of guy. So I will voluntarily go there for breakfast, but if I am five minutes late for breakfast I will walk out without buying anything. Even for breakfast McD’s is far from my first choice, so in practice the new policy hasn’t really affected my life.

      As for the old practice, the long-standing claim that their grill facilities wouldn’t allow all-day breakfast was always an obvious and stupid lie, and this was borne out by the fact that once they decided to do it, they figured it out somehow. Why did they hold out? I have a strong suspicion that it is because breakfast items are traditionally priced lower than lunch items, and they were afraid of cannibalizing their more expensive items. Why did they cave in? Lots of places do all-day breakfast now, and so they were losing that market.Report

      • As for the old practice, the long-standing claim that their grill facilities wouldn’t allow all-day breakfast was always an obvious and stupid lie, and this was borne out by the fact that once they decided to do it, they figured it out somehow.

        I don’t think it was a “lie” so much as a claim that doing all-day breakfast would disrupt workflows and make things more difficult. Not impossibly more difficult, just more difficult. How much more difficult is probably an issue. It’s probably not as difficult as I imagine it would be, but it’s not without difficulty.

        However, I think the other dynamic you mention is also at play, that restaurants probably don’t want their higher priced lunches and dinners to compete with low-priced breakfast items.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      Yes. I remember those ancient days, when places where you could get donuts at 7:15 on the way to work, or at 11:30 at night if the mood struck, were few and far between. Lots of bakeries that had better donuts, but they were only open for regular business hours. Can’t speak to their coffee then — coffee has always done nasty things to my insides, so I avoid it.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    Well, it’s because they got investment. Why did they get investment? Because they had a good story. That may or may not match up with a growing business. But Dunkin’ Donuts does not make its nut on things other than donuts. Not that I think their donuts are great, they are also mediocre. But they can package them in a drive-thru, which gives them a big leg up over the actual bakeries which make real doughnuts.

    Also, it may be that there’s a regional opportunity in your region, because some regional chain is pulling out and that makes real estate more attractive. A lot of the fast food business is about owning the right real estate.Report

    • I don’t know, though. At least in Big City, where I live, Dunkin seems to be promoting its coffee and sandwiches more than its donuts.

      ETA: I’m a fan of Dunkin, but not of its donuts. I agree with Richard that it’s not the best thing ever, but it does have a good convenience factor, sometimes better and sometimes not as good as the local convenience store. In my opinion–and it’s only an opinion based on my personal tastes–it does a good job competing.Report

  3. Avatar Joe Sal says:

    My lasting impression is yes the donuts are mediocre, but the icing on many donuts has a particular flavor. I haven’t found that flavor in any other donut shop, and when the opportunity arises I will wear out a set of brakes to stop at one (which is about once every 8 years).

    I don’t know if I would even consider ordering a breakfast sandwich from there.Report

  4. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I don’t get donut shops generally – one thing you’d think they could do well is donuts. But even well-below-average donuts from a regular bakery are better than well-above-average donut shop donuts.

    There’s an Italian bakery (called “Italian Bakery” because why get fancy?) around the corner from my work, and a Tim Hortons about the same distance away. The Italian Bakery has very good donuts and really fantastic coffee; Tim’s has their usual blandly inoffensive coffee and mediocre donuts, and charges 50% more than the bakery. But which to-go cups are people always carrying around, which donuts do they pick up for meetings? Not the cheaper and much better ones…Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      I really don’t know any more than you do, though I wonder about a few things:

      * Perhaps people who grew up with the donuts from a chain prefer the taste. Sad, but it happens. Upthread someone mentioned that the icing was really good.

      * Perhaps the donut shop has easier access in and out. A drive through. Or a better location.

      * Perhaps people simply aren’t aware of the other options – people move around a lot and aren’t always really aware of everything in their neighborhood.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        One thing about Tim’s in particular – about 12 years ago they went from making their donuts in store, to shipping pre-made ones from a small number of central facilities. A neighbour of mine at the time had been a baker there, when they cut nearly all the bakers’ positions. He had enjoyed his work as a baker, and felt he was actually making good food (the donuts did use to be better before they switched). IIRC he had the option to switch to a sales counter job, but quit and went into a different line of work altogether rather than sell food he couldn’t feel pride in.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        It is often matters unrelated to product which causes a business to thrive.
        I believe this is even more so the case with franchises.

        You will see this quite often in the extraction industries, where the end product is virtually indistinguishable across companies.

        They may have a reduced territory rate for franchises going on now to gain market share, or something.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      What you describe is the difference between how people respond to a chain versus a local independent business. My town has three Italian restaurants of the Northern Italian variety. One is one-off. The second is part of a small regional chain. The third is an Olive Garden. All three have comparable prices. The one-off has excellent food. The regional chain has pretty good food. The Olive Garden has, well, Olive Garden food. Yet I can walk into the indy on any day of the week at any hour they are open and be immediately seated, while the Olive Garden always has a line, often out the door and into the parking lot. (Why do I know this? People give me Olive Garden gift cards. I would much prefer a gift certificate to the local indy place.)

      I find this utterly perplexing. I understand chains for certain circumstances like when you are traveling and want reliable mediocrity rather than playing the local restaurant Russian roulette. But the ovine incurious response to marketing necessary to favor mediocre chain food in your own town is beyond me.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        It is simple. Most people won’t try new things unless forced to. Especially if getting something they already know requires minimal effort.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        Heh. Near where I used to work, there was an excellent taqueria literally right next to a Chipotle (well, not next door, but the same parking spots served both).

        Sure, they aren’t in the exact same niche (although I have my doubts as to how much “healthier” Chipotle actually is), but surely better, cheaper food should get a better than 95/5 split of the custom?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        The thing about chains is that they have mastered the art of consistency. Yes the food might be mediocre but you know what you are getting and will get every time. That local place, might have off nights. Consistency, consistency, consistency seems to be the staying power of regional chains.

        Though I heard places like Olive Garden were suffering financially because consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their appetites especially younger consumers. Just like McDs is suffering because of places like Shake Shack, Smashburger, 5 Guys. People are now willing to pay more for better burgers.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    If you use the Dunkin Donuts app, you get an absurd number of free or greatly reduced (like, 25-cents!) coffee. And it sucks. And I’m not a big coffee fan… I never really drank it and if I did I wanted the *good* stuff. But now that I’m sleeping approximately 4 hours a night and there is a DD between my subway stop and school and they give me 25-cent coffee some days and free coffee other days and 99-cent coffee other other days, I’ll gladly pass over the Starbucks (slightly better) and specialty roasters that litter the block with their $4.00 space coffees.

    But, yea, everything else there is awful. The munchkins are a big seller, mainly because kids like them and they are good for parties and easier to eat without making a mess of yourself than a donut.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      For years and years, R. complained about the lack of Dunkin Donuts coffee in Central Texas, because apparently everyone loves it up there. Then they put a Dunkin Donuts in Kyle (where my son’s mom lives) this year, so we popped in for some coffee. She was so excited, but after one taste said, “It doesn’t taste the same!” I guess it’s like the bagels: it’s the NY water that makes it taste so good.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        The funny thing is that DD is Boston-based and took a while to get a real foothold in the NYC area. While some people have made it their goto spot, I don’t know anyone down here to swears by it or sees/accepts it as a New York thing. Bostonians, on the other hand, will flip their shit if they aren’t within 10 miles of one.

        But the NY water really IS something special!Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    1. Every person I have known from Massachusetts has had a deep affection for Dunkin Donuts. I believe DD started there.

    2. There are people who really like DD coffee. A friend from law school went to undergrad and lived in Boston for a while and she loved DD coffee. It is not my thing but I have been completely hipsterfied in terms of coffee and go for places like Stumptown, Blue Bottle, Sightglass, etc. There can be not be too many hipster coffee stores.

    3. People prefer the security of the known instead of the unknown.

    4. I don’t eat donuts very often but DD is good enough when I feel the need (if I feel the need.)Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    I’ve had little to no experience with DD except once in a hellish layover at like 3 am at an airport. I remember their hot chocolate being thick, extremely creamy somehow and very good.

    Canada, on the other hand, has an absolute obsession with Tim Hortons that Dunkin Doughnuts can only stare at in helpless envy.Report