See inside the futuristic lab where Dunkin' is testing self-serve cold-brew taps, pickup lockers, and AI ordering technology that could eventually come to stores across America

Business Insider/Jessica TylerOrder kiosks and pickup lockers are both being tested in Dunkin’s Innovation Lab.

  • Dunkin’ Doughnuts – which is now just Dunkin’ – revealed its plans for the “store of the future” in early September, starting with a name change that rolled out to about 50 stores earlier this year.
  • The name change is the beginning of a major rebrand that includes a new store design, new drinks, new espresso machines, and more.
  • Before Dunkin’ rolls out new technology in stores, it tests everything in its Innovation Lab in Quincy, Massachusetts. Business Insider got a look inside.

Dunkin’ Doughnuts – now just Dunkin’ – revealed its plans for the “store of the future” experience in early September, starting with a name change that rolled out to about 50 stores earlier this year.

But the name change is only the beginning for Dunkin’. The Massachusetts-based coffee empire is undergoing a major rebrand that includes a new store design, drinks like nitro-infused cold brew, and digital-ordering kiosks. The rebrand also includes a focus on its new espresso, which required installing brand-new espresso machines at every store possible and conducting four- to five-hour training sessions for store managers nationwide.

Before any changes are rolled out to stores, they’re tested out in Dunkin’s Innovation Lab, attached to its first “store of the future” in Quincy, Massachusetts. The Innovation Lab is where Dunkin’ is currently testing out products like self-serve cold-brew taps, order-pickup lockers, and AI technology that can help suggest orders based on customers’ gender, age, and mood.

Dan Wheeler, Dunkin’ Brands’ vice president of strategic initiatives, told reporters on Tuesday that Dunkin’ won’t shy away from automation as it continues to rebrand. He said that customers should be able to order through a robot and let a human make the coffee, emphasising all of the on-the-go order options Dunkin’ is developing.

Take a look inside the lab where Dunkin’ is developing its latest technology that might be rolled out to stores in the future:


The Dunkin’ Innovation Lab is attached to its first so-called “store of the future” in Quincy, Massachusetts. It’s a little bit smaller than the store itself.

Business Insider/Jessica TylerThe technology and rebranding at this store is being rolled out to Dunkin’ locations nationwide.

The Innovation Lab is where Dunkin’ experiments with new technology before it’s tested in the actual store next door.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Dunkin’s initial model for the store of the future sits on a table in the center of the lab. The model was used to design the two-lane drive-thru, which is unique to the new Quincy store.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There were also renderings on the wall that show the initial design plan for Dunkin’s store of the future.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Dunkin’s Innovation Lab tests everything from holographic point-of-purchase ads to self-serve cold-brew taps. Immediately near the entrance is a projector showing advertisements on a glass pane, and a hologram projector on the wall flashing various Dunkin’ logos.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The projected advertisements and holographic logos are being tested as alternatives to the ads that are currently displayed in Dunkin’s store windows.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Some of the technology being tested is perhaps a little less practical, like a machine that allows baristas to print images on foamy drinks like nitro cold brews and hot lattés. Dunkin’ called them “Selfie Nitros.”

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Wheeler said that while it is a cool idea, he isn’t sure how Dunkin’ can best make use of it yet, because it isn’t necessarily something people would use on a daily basis.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Dunkin’ also had a few AI devices in testing. This device, for example, was able to recognise your gender and suggest different menu items based off of popular orders for each gender. For example, when a woman tested it during our tour, the device suggested a frozen lemonade. But it wasn’t entirely accurate at recognising gender, and the suggestions seemed arbitrary.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was also a device that was able to recognise gender, age, and mood, based on your facial expressions. This also wasn’t super accurate, and it felt a little creepy. The idea is that Dunkin’ can suggest what you might want to order based on this data.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Making ordering easier is a huge focus in the Innovation Lab. Dunkin’ wants customers to be able to order anywhere, at any time, on any device. There was a wall of TVs demonstrating apps that are already connected to the Dunkin’ app, like Waze and Google Assistant.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Waze users can locate the nearest Dunkin’ restaurant and tap a single button to launch Dunkin’s On-the-Go Ordering within the Waze App. Only DD Perks members can use this feature.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

DD Perks members can also order ahead with Google Assistant or Alexa. When we tested the apps in the lab, it took less than two minutes to place an order.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

In addition to developing technology to make mobile ordering more efficient, Dunkin’ is testing two new features to improve its in-store experience: digital ordering kiosks and pickup lockers.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The digital ordering kiosks would allow customers to view the menu, place orders, and pay without interacting with anyone else in store.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The pickup lockers are very similar to an Amazon Locker. After placing an order for pickup on the Dunkin’ app, users would simply go to the lockers, scan a QR code, grab their order, and go. Wheeler said he envisions locating the lockers in busy stores in cities like New York, so that customers on the go wouldn’t have to wait on any lines.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Dunkin’ is also developing a self-serve tap for cold drinks, which Wheeler said he could see in spaces like college campuses one day.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

To use the self-serve tap, you could select any iced coffee or tea, pay for your drink, and then fill up the cup yourself. The tap can dispense anything from iced green tea to cold brew.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Though some of the products in the lab are much further along than others, the idea is that products that make it through all of the testing in the lab can eventually be tested in the store of the future next door, before eventually being rolled out to all Dunkin’ stores.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.