From the Boston Kreme to a medium regular coffee, from French Crullers to Munchkins, there are many options at New England favorite Dunkin’ Donuts, now called Dunkin’. A similar variety awaits readers of the new memoir from former company CEO Robert Rosenberg, “Around the Corner to Around the World.”
“I feel hopeful there is something of value for everyone in this book,” Rosenberg said in an email interview with JewishBoston. “I think many readers will be surprised Dunkin’ Donuts started as a family business right here in Boston.”
Now serving 5 million customers a day, Dunkin’ has roots dating back 70 years to 1950, a success story for an American Jewish family. As a boy, Rosenberg attended Sunday school and became bar mitzvah at Congregation Mishkan Tefila, which was located on Seaver Street in Boston at the time. He also remembered school days that were extended by going to yeshiva on Columbia Road.
He described his father, William Rosenberg, as “a natural entrepreneur.”
“Although he only had an eighth-grade education, he had a gift for business,” the younger Rosenberg said. “While a young man, he successfully built ice cream routes for the Jack and Jill Ice Cream Company. After World War II, he started a company, Industrial Luncheon Service, that catered coffee and baked goods to small offices and construction sites. As vending machines cut into that business, he experimented with a retail coffee and doughnut business.”
William Rosenberg went on to launch seven other businesses, but by age 47, he decided it was time for a change. He asked his son, who was 25 at the time, to become the president of his company, Universal Food Systems, which included all eight of the elder Rosenberg’s business ventures.
“My team and I focused on one of those businesses and exited all the others,” Robert Rosenberg said. “That one diamond in the rough was Dunkin’.”
Over 35 years, from 1963 to 1998, the younger Rosenberg ran the company as CEO, an experience that he details in the book. Readers will learn about the origins of doughnuts, and of the company name—one reason for “donuts” instead of “doughnuts” is that the former was easier to fit on a sign. Rosenberg also discusses successful innovations over the decades, from the Munchkins to the Coolatta, and how Dunkin’ became the parent company of Baskin-Robbins. And, of course, he mentions the iconic “Time to make the donuts” commercials featuring the late actor Michael Vale as Fred the Baker.
“The reason Dunkin’ has thrived for the past 70 years is it never lost sight that its purpose was to satisfy needs of its customers better than anyone else,” Rosenberg said.
In the last decade of Rosenberg’s tenure as CEO, the company was sold to a British-based company called Allied-Lyons (later Allied Domecq). Following his retirement at age 60, he found a new path as an adjunct professor in the graduate school at Babson College, and as a member of several boards of directors helping the next generation of business leaders.
“It was in this second career that I was able to reflect on the lessons learned in my first career, and friends and business associates encouraged me to put all my setbacks and successes in a book to help others,” Rosenberg said.
Working on the book lasted four years. He described the result, appropriately, as a buffet.
“There are stories relating to franchising, persistence and apprenticeship that may help entrepreneurs,” Rosenberg said. “The granular look at how we did our planning and how we recruited, retained and motivated a high-performing organization could be of help to anyone engaged in scaling their business. The discussion of how I found the strategy process used in my business life translated to my personal life may help others as they transition from stage to stage in their own life.”
As for the company he once headed, it has entered its own new chapter.
“Dunkin’ has recently been sold to a private equity company [Inspire Brands] that owns many other [restaurant] brands,” Rosenberg said. “In our 70 years, we have thrived under all kinds of ownership relationships. We continued to thrive through all of them. I have every confidence that will continue to be the case.”
“I am most warmed by the trust 5 million customers a day place in us,” Rosenberg added. “Our offerings put a smile on their face and a skip in their step. I am also proud of how our franchise system has provided a pathway to wealth for thousands of franchise owners and their families. Many of them came as new citizens to our country and now their children run networks” of stores, including some networks of hundreds of stores.
Giving a new twist on the famous company motto, he said, “Our ad campaign may be ‘America Runs on Dunkin,’’ but Dunkin’ the company runs on the American dream!”