November 22, 2006
By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN, Courant Staff Writer
Takeout from Sally's or Pepe's it isn't.
But hey, we're talking pizza in less than three minutes from a place that, for years, talked only about how it was "time to make the doughnuts."
The Dunkin' Donuts on Asylum Street in Hartford is one of 10 in the nation, mostly on the East Coast, chosen to test whether customers would have a taste for pizza, hot dogs and hot sandwiches where they are used to buying only coffee, doughnuts and muffins.
The chain chose Hartford because it considers the city and the surrounding area a key market. And Connecticut's status as arguably the pizza capital of the world could help - or it could hurt.
Dunkin' Donuts is seeking to expand beyond traditional breakfast foods to capture more of the lunch and dinner crowd - though it offers a breakfast pizza, too.
If you're surprised to hear about pizza and hot dogs at Dunkin' Donuts, you're not alone.
Outside the downtown Hartford shop Tuesday, some customers reacted as if they hadn't heard correctly when told about the pizza and hot dogs - despite large signs in the windows.
"It could be better than any of the pizzerias around here," said Craig Kimble, of East Hartford. But, he added, "Dunkin' Donuts? No. Coffee. Croissants. Doughnuts. But pizza? No."
Neal Butler, of West Hartford, said he might consider buying a hot dog at Dunkin' Donuts.
"I love hot dogs," Butler said. "But a pizza? No."
That wasn't the feedback the company got from customer surveys on how it might expand its menu. And Audrey Maxwell, of Hartford, came to Dunkin's defense.
"If you go there for coffee, why not something else?" Maxwell asked. "Sometimes, you're just in a hurry."
Is the pizza fast food? Well, that depends on how you define fast.
At 5 p.m. Tuesday, it took 2 minutes, 54 seconds from the moment a Courant reporter uttered the word "pizza" to a cashier until the bag of two pizzas, one cheese, one regular, came over the counter. No, the 5-inch pies are not made in a microwave; they're made in a special little oven.
The pizzas range from $1.95 to $3.49.
Robert Rodriguez, president of Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin' Donuts, said the new menu items may be tweaked after being tested. It also wasn't clear when they might be rolled out on a bigger scale.
Rodriguez wouldn't reveal the volume of sales so far in Hartford, where pizza was first offered late last week. "But so far, we are very encouraged," he said.
The question is, can the pizza be dunked?
"I haven't tried it. I don't know how it would taste," Rodriguez said. "I do know a hot dog and hot chocolate go very well together."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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