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BIRMINGHAM, AL-Dunkin’ Donuts is pushing into the southeast with plans to develop and operate at least 21 restaurants in the Birmingham market during the next five to six years. Local businessmen operating under the name of RFS LLC have become the first franchisees for the area, launching the first Dunkin’ Donuts last month in Dotham, AL.

Grant Benson, vice president of franchise sales with Dunkin’ Brands in Canton MA tells GlobeSt.com that Alabama and the Birmingham market, in particular, represents a natural fill-in for the company. The company’s main concentration has been north and along the eastern seaboard and Atlanta, GA. Additionally, Dunkin’ Brands made a huge push into Texas last year.

“We’re trying to fill out by moving into Alabama and eventually Mississippi,” Benson comments. “We want tot take advantage of strong areas as well as our ability to get product into areas in a relatively economic fashion.” Benson says there is still room for more franchisees in Birmingham, as the market could support up to 60 units. In the meantime, next door in Mississippi, a franchisee is committed to opening at least 30 units.

Dunkin’ Donuts has no company-operated stores, preferring to entrust local franchisees with developing and running stores. Benson says, on the balance, the company likes to see about a third of the restaurants in any given market situated in free-standing buildings, with the remainder being placed in end caps of shopping centers and, in some cases, in partnership with convenience store operations. The typical shop takes up around 1,500-1,800 square feet and should be in a high-traffic area. In all cases, Benson says, a drive-through component is essential.

What’s interesting to note, however, is that there is no particular age or social demographic when it comes to unit placement. The placement is more about location that are easily accessible. “The brand appeals to a wide variety of people,” Benson explains. “In our parking lots, it’s pretty common to see a pick-up truck next to a Mercedes. The age of our customers is balanced across the whole spectrum and we play to all types of incomes.”

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