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Starbucks vs. Dunkin': 7 Major Differences

From store footprint to food and beverage offerings, here's how the coffee giants compare.
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For many adults, no task can get completed before that first invigorating sip of coffee in the morning. While some choose to brew their jolting java at home, others rely on their go-to coffee spot. And if there are two chains that come to mind when hearing the word "coffee," then Starbucks and Dunkin' are probably the most likely.

Ranking as the two largest coffee chains in the world, Starbucks and Dunkin' have been helping people get their caffeine fix for decades. Starbucks opened its first location in Seattle in 1971, while Dunkin' first opened in Quincy, Mass., in 1948. Since their beginnings, the coffee giants have launched countless food and beverage offerings, unveiled various store concepts, and released numerous products that can be purchased at grocery stores.

Starbucks and Dunkin' have their fair share of similarities, but, as the chain's devotees will tell you, there are plenty of distinctions worth noting. Here are seven differences between the world's leading coffee chains.

Store footprint

starbucks and dunkin storefronts
rblfmr / Shutterstock

When comparing the coffee chains' presence, Starbucks dominates Dunkin'. The Seattle-based chain has around 38,000 locations across 80 countries, with 17,800 located in North America. Additionally, the chain recently announced plans to reach 55,000 locations by 2030, adding that 75% of these are expected to be opened outside of the U.S.

Meanwhile, Dunkin' has a notably smaller presence than Starbucks, operating more than 13,200 locations across nearly 40 markets. Over 9,540 of these are in the U.S., with the chain's home state of Massachusetts claiming the highest number of locations at 1,050 stores.

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starbucks inside

Starbucks and Dunkin' each present two entirely different coffee shop environments. Walk into a Starbucks, and you'll be greeted with warm lighting, wooden accents, and neutral, earthy colors. The combination of these cozy elements creates a space that has become popular for working or studying.

Dunkin', on the other hand, has a bolder color scheme, showcasing its signature combination of orange and magenta. Often viewed as a grab-and-go spot, this coffee chain features some fast-food chain elements like bright lighting and digital menu boards. Seating is spartan and often sparse. Laptop users rarely set up shop here.

One commonality: Starbucks has also announced plans to introduce digital menu boards over the next couple of years.

Drink sizes

Starbucks cups in different sizes
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The differences between the chains' drinks begins when selecting the cup size. For hot drinks, Dunkin' offers four different options: small (10 ounces), medium (14 ounces), large (20 ounces), and extra large (24 ounces). Iced drinks are available in three sizes: small (16 ounces), medium (24 ounces), and large (32 ounces.)

At Starbucks, the beverage cup sizes are slightly different. The options include short (eight ounces), tall (12 ounces), grande (16 ounces), venti (20 ounces), and trenta (30 ounces, solely for iced drinks).

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Drink options

dunkin' iced coffee
Dunkin' US / Facebook

Whether you're craving a cozy warm beverage or a refreshing iced drink, both chains have plenty of options. However, there is variation in these offerings and, as coffee devotees will assert, differences in the flavor profiles.

While both chains welcome customization with their various flavor options and add-ons, the selection at Starbucks is a bit more extensive, offering personalization at a more granular level. Specifically, beyond selecting syrups, toppings, and drizzles, customers can also choose to line their cups with flavored sauces like caramel or mocha. Dunkin', on the other hand, has less customization categories during the ordering process. The chain also no longer offers coconut milk, which is available at Starbucks.

In terms of cold drinks, Starbucks outnumbers Dunkin's offerings. Within the frozen coffee category, Starbucks has 15 pre-designed frappuccino drinks, while Dunkin' has just six options. Additionally, both offer "refreshers"—caffeinated, fruity beverages—though Starbucks has 12 options, while Dunkin' has just two: mango pineapple and strawberry dragonfruit.

Food options

dunkin' donuts
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Looking for breakfast or a snack? Starbucks and Dunkin' have you covered. While both chains offer breakfast sandwiches and baked goods, Starbucks has some more variety, boasting a slightly lengthier selection of sandwiches, wraps, and other breakfast items like egg bites.

Meanwhile, Dunkin' is, obviously, known for its doughnuts. These come in numerous flavors like classic chocolate, cinnamon, and Bavarian Kreme. Customers can also order smaller doughnut holes—aka Munchkins—instead. The only doughnut currently listed on Starbucks' website is a glazed variety. Other bites you can only get at Dunkin' include hash browns and Snackin' Bacon. Plus, certain Dunkin' locations also offer Baskin Robbins' ice cream.

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The pricing

Starbucks menu boards
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As with any other chain, pricing can vary by location. However, when looking at both, you may find one to be a consistently cheaper option. At a New Jersey-based Starbucks, a grande (16-ounce) latte will run you $4.98, while a medium (14-ounce) latte costs $4.59 at a Dunkin' in the same town. A grande iced Americano at Starbucks is priced at $4.45, while the same drink costs $4.39 at Dunkin'.

That being said, not all of the drinks are cheaper at this New Jersey-based Dunkin'. For instance, a medium cold brew at Dunkin' is $4.59, while a grande cold brew at Starbucks is $4.45.

Rewards programs

Dunkin' on phone screen
rafapress / Shutterstock

For regular coffee drinkers, signing up for your preferred chain's rewards program could be a worthwhile move. At Dunkin', customers earn 10 points for every dollar spent on qualifying purchases. These customers can unlock rewards starting at 150 points. This means they must first spend $15. Additionally, Dunkin' Rewards members who visit the chain 12 times in one month reach "Boosted Status," which allows them to earn 12 points for every dollar spent for three months after reaching this new status.

Meanwhile, Starbucks Rewards customers earn one point for every dollar spent if they choose to pay as they go. Those who opt to preload their app with, say, a gift card, earn twice as many points. Customers can redeem their first reward after earning 25 points.

Brianna Ruback
Brianna is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! She attended Ithaca College, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. Read more about Brianna
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