East Coast Vs. West Coast: America's Coffee Chain Battle

Are you on team Dunkin' or team Starbucks? Your answer could be a result of many factors, but a new observation says your preference has a lot to do with geographic location.

The Boston Globe recently created a map of the U.S. locations of Starbucks (11,000 locations) and Dunkin' Donuts (7,200 locations). The paper then asked several business analysts to figure out what these mappings say about the country's coffee consumption habits, and the companies themselves.

David Tarantino, from Robert W. Baird & Co., Chris Christopher, from HIS Global Insights, and Darren Tritano, from Technomic Inc. all had different opinions about the expansion patterns of the companies, geographic locations of the stores, and demographics of the areas in which they exist.

The companies prevail on their respective coasts where they were founded. Dunkin' Donuts, founded in 1950 in Canton, Mass., now has 10,000 locations in 32 countries around the world. Starbucks, founded in 1971 in Seattle, has more than 20,000 store in six of the seven continents, making in the largest coffee company in the world. "Starbucks has already penetrated a lot of markets in the U.S... But Dunkin's has aspirations of becoming a large national player," said Tarantino, a senior research analyst.

The orange marks on the map, representing Dunkin Donuts, are spread heavily across the Northeast. "It really captures the strength of Dunkin's," said Tristano on the presence of Dunkin Donuts in the Northeast, in areas like Boston or Florida metro areas Starbucks has a hold on the West, including Texas and California.

But one trend does stand out in the Dunkin' Donuts versus Starbucks rivalry: Starbucks tends to be found in bustling metro areas while Dunkin' Donuts are found in more suburban areas. Take New York City; with 240 Starbucks and 350 Dunkins, it is clear that New York City is a city that is fueled by coffee. Christopher makes a point that the more "glitzy" areas of New York City are dominated by Starbucks, but everywhere else there are Dunkin' Donuts. Long Island, N.Y. has a generally even balance of both chains. The same goes for Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Detroit. In D.C., Starbucks dominates with 80 stores, "primarily in the trade areas," where Dunkin's has 12 "around the periphery," according to Tristano. Chicago and Detroit follow the same pattern, which Starbucks locations in the more affluent neighborhoods of the cities, and Dunkin's located in the less affluent, middle income, neighborhoods and suburbs.

It's clear the jolt from the competition hasn't even been felt yet, while both coffee chains continue to grow at a rapid pace coast to coast.