If you get the same fast-food sandwich and coffee on your way into work each morning, you may want to rethink your route: You may be paying more than a dollar more every day than your co-worker, depending on where you stop.
We called eight Dunkin’ Donuts locations to check before-tax prices on a breakfast sandwich (ham, egg and cheese on an English muffin) and a medium iced coffee.
The sandwich ranged from $3.29 to $4.19, and the coffee from $2.09 to $2.39.
At 1831 South Blvd., you’ll pay $3.29 for the sandwich and $2.09 for the iced coffee. Drive 2 miles away, to 701 S. Kings Drive and you’ll pay $3.77 for the sandwich and $2.29 for the coffee, or 68 cents more.
Around the city, we found similar differences. At 3014 Driwood Court, off Mallard Creek Road north of Charlotte, the sandwich is $3.49, the coffee is $2.29. At 1601 W. Morehead, near Freedom Drive, the sandwich is $3.79 and the coffee is $2.39.
One price difference really stood out. In Indian Land, at 8374 Charlotte Highway, we found the highest cost for the sandwich, $4.19, while the coffee was $2.39. At the next closest locations, 5 miles away at 16131 Lancaster Highway, the sandwich was $3.49 and the coffee was $2.37.
If you bought that breakfast at 1831 South Boulevard, you’d save $1.20.
And you can bet dollars to doughnuts that the price of a single glazed doughnut varies too: It ranges by a dime, from 99 cents on Lancaster Highway to $1.09 on South Kings Drive.
The reason: Dunkin’ Donuts, like many franchises, allows its owners to set their own prices, according to an email response from Dunkin’ Donuts’ corporate office in Massachusetts.
“As a 100% franchised system, Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees, who are independent business owners and are solely responsible for all pricing decisions at their restaurants.”
The company wouldn’t supply any information on what goes into those pricing decisions and the manager of the Indian Land location referred all questions about prices and ownership back to the corporate office.
It isn’t just Dunkin’ Donuts. A Big Mac at five McDonald’s locations around Charlotte ranged from $3.89 at 8121 University City Blvd. and $3.99 at 6458 Fairview Road (near SouthPark) to $4.19 each at 2745 Freedom Drive, 4440 S. Tryon St. and 10108 Charlotte Highway in Fort Mill.
Franchise prices were in the national news in December, when Subway store operators protested a corporate move to drop the price of a foot-long sub to $4.99. Franchise owners said it could cut their profit margins so much, many would have to close.
Still, picking your stop based on the best price can be tough. Menus posted online don’t include prices. If you call to ask, you’ll often encounter phones that aren’t working or incorrect numbers listed for the stores. We called 15 stores and only eight answered or had working phone numbers.
In the meantime, the company’s spokesperson points out that you can download a Dunkin’ Donuts app for a smartphone that will, eventually, get you a menu with prices for a specific location under the DD Perks program. But you have to plug in your personal information, date of birth and credit card information first.
If you spot wide differences in the cost of food (or just want to tell us what you pay) at franchise locations, tell us in the comments or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.