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Competitive Watch

BOSTON -- Dunkin' Donuts, the coffee and baked goods chain synonymous with breakfast, is targeting the afternoon and evening dayparts with new flatbread sandwiches and personal pizzas heated in convection ovens rather than microwaves.

The Canton, Mass.-based chain hopes these moves will improve food quality and bolster an expansion plan that's introducing Dunkin's pink- and orange-themed restaurants far beyond the brand's Northeastern base, The Associated Press reported.

Although Dunkin' Donuts has previously experimented with sandwiches, the 57-year-old company is billing its new "all-day, oven-toasted menu" as the biggest change since its launch of espresso drinks in 2003, according to the AP report.

The goal is to even out sales throughout the 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. day maintained by most of the 5,400-plus stores in the U.S. About two-thirds of sales come before noon, with most customers choosing snacks such as baked goods and breakfast sandwiches with coffee.

"It speaks to changing consumption trends, with people having a lot more occasions to graze, and consumers' desire to have what they want, when they want it," Will Kussell, Dunkin' Donuts president and chief brand officer, told the AP.

Kussell declined to reveal the cost of replacing its microwaves with convection ovens, which will take place throughout the chain except in some small outlets offering limited menus. Staff are being trained to use the new ovens, and Dunkin' does not expect this to increase the time needed to heat made-to-order sandwiches and pizzas, or delay customer flow. The chain also hopes the new ovens will boost customer satisfaction with breakfast sandwiches, since microwaving can create limp eggs and mushy bread.

The new flatbread sandwiches come in three varieties: turkey, cheddar and bacon ($3.49); ham and Swiss ($3.49); and three cheese ($2.99). Five-inch supreme and pepperoni pizzas cost $2.99, while cheese pizzas cost $2.49. Also new are hash browns in containers designed to fit into car cupholders. Nine bite-sized pieces will be sold for $1.29, the AP stated.

The new foods were introduced starting last spring at test locations, and were expected to be available Wednesday in 3,500 locations nationwide. Another 2,000 or so U.S. locations will have the expanded menu by spring, according to the report.

Beyond sandwiches, pizzas and hash browns, Dunkin' will offer items such as multigrain bagels and angel food muffins in coming months -- healthier fare in line with its switch last fall to what the chain calls a "zero gram trans fat" menu at U.S. locations.

"This is a long-term commitment, with a continuous flow of new products off the oven-toasted platform," Kussell told The Associated Press.