The Morning Coffee Rush Now Starts Later in the Day

Disrupted commuters still want their java—just not so early.

September 22, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—At Dunkin’, the traditional morning coffee-and-doughnuts rush has shifted to mid-day as employees skip their commutes and work from home, according to Katherine Jaspon, chief financial officer, Dunkin’.

“People are coming out a little later—maybe they need a break from their Zoom,” she said.

According to a Business Insider report, consumers typically stopped for coffee on their way to work—between 6 and 9 a.m.—before the pandemic. Now, they show up for a cup of joe between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Dunkin' isn’t the only foodservice operator seeing the change. Breakfast sales have “dried up” at McDonald’s, Panera and Starbucks, Business Insider previously reported. In July, Starbucks also revealed that sales had slumped due to disruptions in morning commutes to work and school. Like Dunkin', the coffee chain said that Americans were stopping in later in the day, with early visits around 9:30 a.m. and an afternoon peak around 2 p.m. The chain saw same-store sales decline 41% year over year, with more consumers buying cappuccinos at suburban drive-thrus than at urban cafes, according to Kevin Johnson, CEO, Starbucks.

Across the convenience retail channel, the weekday morning daypart still awaits a full recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Trips in the key 7 to 9:59 a.m. morning rush period stood at 80% of prior-year trips for the two weeks ended September 13, 2020, according to the latest biweekly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 continues to impact consumer behavior.

To attract the growing number of Americans eating and working at home, Dunkin’ recently put more focus “on the espresso and latte platforms and things that you really can’t make at home,” said Jaspon. The chain also recently rolled out two lightly caffeinated flavors: caramel macchiato and mocha latte.

Still, Dunkin’s sales have declined since the pandemic began, and in July, the chain announced that it closed 800 stores across the U.S., or about 8% of locations. Dunkin’ also reported that same-store sales declined 18.7% year over year in the second quarter, not including temporarily closed locations. 

To read more about the growing breakfast category, read “Rise & Shine” in the January issue of NACS Magazine and look for more coverage in the coming October issue of NACS Magazine.