Dunkin' Donuts' (NASDAQ: DNKN) coffee, doughnuts, bagels, and pastries have long been served at office gatherings. The company has catered to the needs of groups by offering its Box O' Joe coffee boxes (with convenient handles) and selling doughnuts by the dozen.

What the chain has generally not done is offer formal catering -- something that rivals like Panera Bread have made a key part of their businesses. Now, though, it's testing an online catering system in 16 of its stores in Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, Nation's Restaurant News (NRN) first reported.

What is Dunkin' doing?

The coffee and doughnut chain is in the midst of revamping its business with a number of initiatives. These have included simplifying its menu, dropping some items, and floating the concept of changing its name to simply "Dunkin'."

Catering makes sense for the company, since it's really just an evolution of its current practice, in which customers place large orders for parties or office events. In the test, consumers are offered three bundles of various Dunkin' menu item for parties of 10 or 20. The Dunkin' Continental offers doughnuts, bagels, muffins, orange juice and hot or iced coffee, while Sweet Treats includes doughnut holes, doughnuts, muffins and hot chocolate, and Baker's Delight has only baked goods.

Prices range from $30 to $96. Orders must be placed by 1 p.m. the day before the order is to be picked up.

"The launch of our new DD Catering test in select Northeast locations will make it easier for our customers to serve the brand's signature coffee, doughnuts, beverages and baked goods to a group at any function, party or office meeting," Dunkin' Donuts Vice President of Digital Innovation Sherrill Kaplan told NRN.

Is this a good idea?

At the very least, offering an easier way to place advance orders for catering reduces the problem of walk-in customers placing huge orders. Those can slow down the entire restaurant and cause customer frustration. They can also lead to some products being sold out, further irritating customers.

It's a smart play to organize and formalize a practice that's already happening, and it may lead to increased sales, since placing large orders will be easier. There's no downside to this move, and it seems likely the company will expand it across the entire chain.

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The author(s) may have a position in any stocks mentioned.

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

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