First, Taco Bell turned the burrito on its side with the recent launch of a new breakfast menu; now traditional morning daypart chains Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are looking to extend their bite to the much-larger lunch slice. Although Dunkin’ has already been after the coffee-drinking market that still makes up the largest piece of Starbucks’ revenue, and Starbucks for years has been serving some pre-made or heat-n-eat fare, both brands are looking to increase food sales revenue and chip away at Panera Bread’s market share. Starbucks’ latest quarterly earnings, where it reports a 23% profit increase bolstered by more food sales, signals the chain may be seeing early signs of success with this strategy.

Lunch can be both a more lucrative and a more competitive market. According to the consumer insight data collected at CivicScience, 54% of U.S. adults eat lunch away from home (23% eat out for lunch regularly; 31% pack their lunch). Compare that to breakfast, where the data find that only 20% of U.S. adults say they eat breakfast away from home.

As Dunkin’ and Starbucks invest in new and expanded lunch menus and marketing, they probably already have a pretty good sense of their most-likely customer and “brand” loyalist. But to compete in the red ocean of lunch, they are going to need to persuade consumers away from both incumbents and successful newer entrants. Institutions like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s are working feverishly to reclaim mindshare and grow revenue through new offerings (for example, Wendy’s will be testing a build-your-own sandwich option). McDonald’s has even gone so far as to give Ronald a make-over this year. Meanwhile, fast casual successes seen in Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Panera are putting even more pressure on the players in the lunch space.

It doesn’t help that we found only 7% of consumers said they would be “Very likely” to try a lunch menu at Dunkin’ Donuts, and 11% said the same for Starbucks (when asked about the possibility of more lunch menu options being offered there). The majority of respondents to each question (68% for Dunkin’ and 63% for Starbucks) said they are “Not at all likely” to try the lunch menu at either restaurant.

Who will try lunch at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks?

So a question likely on the minds of many – ranging from franchise owners and industry analysts – is: Where will those chains find the persuadable lunch diners? Who are those diners, and what makes them tick?

A consumer insights study recently conducted by our team at CivicScience aimed to reveal some of those answers, which marketing teams can potentially use to take action. We looked only at the respondents who said they are “Somewhat likely” to try lunch at these restaurants and using data science techniques, identified where those same respondents had statistically meaningful differences on a wide range of topics when compared against the general U.S. population. Here’s what we learned:

Demographic Differences Among Possible Persuadables:

Dunkin’s lunch persuadables are somewhat more likely to be White/Caucasian and 21% more likely than the general population to work in a Professional/Managerial occupation. The Starbucks lunch persuadables are slightly more likely to be female (17% over the general population), more of them are in the 18- to 29-year-old age range, and they are 26% less likely to be parents.

Where They Like to Eat:

What better way to understand how to persuade dining customers than to know what and where else they like to eat? The Dunkin’ Donuts lunch persuadables are 58% more likely to love eating at Five Guys Burgers and Fries and 43% more likely to love eating at The Cheesecake Factory. Starbucks lunch persuadables have even stronger preferences over the general population: they are 250% more likely to love eating here, 207% more likely to love Boston Market, and 204% more likely to love Lone Star Steakhouse.

Media Consumption and Influence:

The Dunkin’ lunch persuadables are 45% more likely to watch sports on TV than the general population, as well as somewhat more likely to be influenced the most by ads on TV and to say social media is less likely to influence their purchasing decisions. In contrast, the Starbucks lunch persuadables are 145% more likely than the general population to use Twitter, and they are 77% more likely to watch NBC the most of all the major TV broadcast networks.

Attributes of Dunkin Donuts Persuadable Lunch Customers

Attributes of Persuadable Starbucks Lunch Customers


Among some of the things we found about Dunkin’s potentially persuadable diners include that they are 64% more likely to categorize themselves as “very unhealthy,” 50% more likely to eat breakfast away from home, and also 50% more likely to value diverse menus the most when dining out. As for the Starbucks lunch persuadables, they are 125% more likely to say they have difficulty controlling their spending, and a higher percentage see themselves as fashion innovators or leaders compared to the general population. Interestingly, they are not necessarily big coffee drinkers, with a 64% greater likelihood to say their coffee consumption is only “occasional.”

What They Have in Common:

While these segments seem to be quite different, they do have a few interesting things in common when compared against the general U.S. population. When given the choice, both potentially persuadable groups are much more likely to say they would rather be “extremely attractive” vs. “highly intelligent” or “extremely lucky.” Also, both segments are much less likely to make lifestyle changes that benefit the environment.

In Summary

Much more data about each of these potentially persuadable diners are available; we only pulled out some of the highlights for this article. However, such data easily can be put to use by marketing and research teams as they strategize, launch, and measure their campaigns. For example, Dunkin’ can focus their offerings and campaigns on menu diversity, choice, and perhaps customization, and may not need to consider healthfulness in its creative. TV especially sports programming seem like strong likely ad channels, while social media may not yield as much. For Starbucks, they may want to think about “indulge” and “splurge” as message themes, and think about fashion tie-ins, using social media much more to reach this consumer group.

In the very crowded and fiercely competitive lunch market, these chains will need every research and strategy advantage they can get to reach beyond their brand loyalists.

View the full, detailed report here. (No login needed)


(Note: Dunkin’ Brands Group and Starbucks did not participate in the featured polling questions or the development of the referenced research report. This was an internally-generated study done by CivicScience for informational purposes.)

About the CivicScience Methodology:

CivicScience collects real-time consumer research data via polling applications that run on hundreds of U.S. publisher websites, cycling through thousands of active questions on any given day. Using cookie technology, CivicScience builds deep psychographic profiles of these anonymous, opt-in respondents over time. For this study, from June 4 to July 22, 2014, CivicScience asked consumers, separately, how likely they would be to try lunch menus at both Dunkin’ Donuts and at Starbucks. Each question generated more than 7,000 responses, weighted for U.S. census representativeness for gender and age, 13 years and older. The persuadables group (those who answered “somewhat likely” to either of the two poll questions) included 1,798 respondents for Dunkin’ Donuts and 2,013 respondents for Starbucks.