On a mild Sunday morning in September, one would suspect the queue at my local Dunkin Donuts shop would be non-existent, the place completely desolate. However, whilst traveling after an errand for some of the good tastes that reflect its namesake as a weekend treat, I was mistaken.
There they were, some in their Sunday best, others like me out getting that last second errand done before Monday sprung up, queuing for the items usually considered a weekday habit.
Yet, that is no longer the case. To paraphrase a campaign statement by former US President Bill Clinton: “It’s the coffee and donuts, stupid.”
A ubiquitous role
In the United States, coffee and donuts have become more than just items to help millions of people get through their day with just the right amount of fuel. They have become ubiquitous within the country’s modern food culture.
Gone are the days where the rest stop would be for most of the time the nearest fast dining establishment, be it McDonald’s or otherwise. Instead, these donut shops and coffee stores, like Dunkin and its associated competitor, Starbucks, have become the norm. You could walk in, order what you will, and then sit down and enjoy life.
In Canada, coffee and donuts too are ubiquitous with food culture. Tim Horton’s, its flagship chain of donut and coffee shops, is considered a venerable institution, so much, that when there were plans in 2009 to ban the drive-thru outlets of its restaurants in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, there was swift criticism.
Indeed, one of the country’s most respected political commentators, Rex Murphy, himself a native of the province, could not hold back with his disdain.
The constant in culture
The calls, originally made by the city council in the capital St. John’s, were eventually scrapped, but showed how important Tim Horton’s, and all the coffee and donuts associated with it, were to the Canadian food culture.
On both sides of the border, restaurants took notice, and as Tim Horton’s began expansion plans in the US, establishments like Dunkin and Starbucks, equated with the status of the preferred rest stop, were trying to keep their own, which made the business worth interest, as this news segment from US television network CBS suggested.
Yet, in spite of the business conflict, and the recent concerns raised by British tax authorities about one firm in particular, one thing was clear – the varieties of coffee and donuts may be numerous, but it would remain an integral part of global food culture. No gingerbread latte from Starbucks or Boston Kreme donut from Tim Horton’s will change that.
They have become more than just parts of one’s weekday habits. They have become places of significance, places of meaning, places to slow down, sit back, and enjoy life as it passes right before you.
While business and societal roles may change, the role of these places, Dunkin, Starbucks and Tim Horton’s, remain a constant for just one paraphrased, repeated reason – it’s the coffee and donuts, stupid.
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