STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Might have to exercise even more after this next story on the donut wars. Krispy Kreme made headlines years ago, when the North Carolina company tried to expand into the territory of Dunkin Donuts. Now Dunkin Donuts is challenging Krispy Kreme on its own turf, with a round of stores opening in the South.
NPR's Audie Cornish investigates in Nashville.
AUDIE CORNISH: First of all, let's be clear. Joe Rando is not in it for the donuts.
Mr. JOE RANDO (Dunkin Donuts Franchisee): Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee. I love the coffee. I used to go to Dunkin Donuts to get a cup of coffee - three, four, five times a day.
CORNISH: Rando was working for a wireless service company when he moved down south from the Boston area. But he quickly realized he had a problem if he wanted to maintain his addiction in Tennessee, where there weren't any Dunkin Donut shops.
Mr. RANDO: It sounds so crazy, but it was strictly as a consumer. I just wanted the cup of coffee, and I couldn't believe they weren't here. So I figured I'd call them just to say, why aren't you here and when are you coming?
CORNISH: Rando asked for a cup of coffee and ended up with the whole store.
In fact, he ended up signing on to open up 12 stores after he convinced Dunkin Donuts to add the Nashville area to its list for expansion. Now, nearly a dozen corporate trainers, sporting cherry red dress shirts and sharp Boston accents, are hovering over Rando's new employees, peaking at trays of Boston Crèmes and critiquing cappuccino foam.
This small army of corporate support is a sign of the company's newer, far more organized approach to expansion.
(Soundbite of commercial)
Mr. MICHAEL VALE (Fred the Baker): Time to make the donuts.
Unidentified Man (Announcer): Dunkin Donuts are always fresh.
Mr. VALE: I made the donuts.
Unidentified Man: We make them at least twice every day…
CORNISH: Back in the 80s and 90s, when actor Michael Vale, Fred the Baker, made Dunkin Donuts a household name, previous attempts at expansion weren't really successful. Company President Robert Rodriguez says the company wasn't that selective about who they franchised to and where.
Mr. ROBERT RODRIGUEZ (President, Dunkin Donuts): Now in today's environment, if we decide to go into a particular market, we're definitely going to go in and then make a determination being in the market full time. It's not a one or two stores.
CORNISH: Analysts say Krispy Kreme lost its cult standing because it expanded too quickly and with too little quality control. Joe Rando says Dunkin Donuts won't make the same mistake, and that the company's move to expand its menu, beyond coffee and donuts, will make all the difference.
(Soundbite of Dunkin Donuts shop)
That's a big customer, lured from the nearby state college for trial runs of Rando's Columbia, Tennessee store, opening this week. Rando's franchises will serve as the company's test model on everything from the new muted paint job of tans and mauves, to new menu items like flatbread sandwiches and pizzas.
But it's southerners, such as Maqualita(ph) Frierson(ph), who will have to be won over.
Ms. MAQUALITA FRIERSON (Customer): The coffee was good. OK, they on point with the coffee. But as far as the donuts, Krispy Kreme has my heart so that's where I'm going to go. People would have to come in and judge for their selves. Cause if you were used to a certain brand and a certain product, that's usually what you're going to go to first.
CORNISH: Rando says he's counting on the area's mix of new potential customers and dedicated Northeast transplants who have been pressing their faces up against the glass, waiting for the store to open. Meantime, Krispy Kreme, this year, has hired a new CEO, and in its annual report, says its testing new coffees and rethinking the look of their stores.
Audie Cornish, NPR News, Nashville.