Parag Patel | Crain's Baltimore

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Parag Patel


Founded in 1950, Dunkin' Donuts is a market leader with more than 12,400 restaurants in 46 countries. Parag Patel was introduced to Dunkin’ brands at a young age when his father opened a Dunkin' Donuts in 1989. At 24 years old, Parag opened his first Dunkin’ Donuts in Odenton, Maryland. He’s been the head of the Baltimore Advertising Committee since 2006, and leads other franchisees in market-wide initiatives. To date, Parag owns more than 20 Dunkin’ Donuts locations throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C. and California.

The Mistake:

My mistake was accepting things the way they were and not challenging the status quo.

I got started in this business at a very young age. I’ve been in it since my father opened his store in 1989. I went to college and came back to run the company. I was 24 years old when I became a franchisee and was put into some of the same roles that I’m still in now.

As I started I learned from a lot of people that were doing this for a long time, and some of these people were my mentors. During that time I thought, “Hey, this is the best way to do it because there are a lot of experienced people doing things this way.” I soon started learning that just because something is the best way now doesn’t mean that’s how it should always be done.

My biggest mistake was accepting things the way they were. When you’re in a franchise business or a food industry business, they’re run very similarly, and when I first came into the business I started to adapt to those systems.

I soon learned that things can be done differently. We used technology to help with data reporting so that we could see things in real time and make real changes. The implementation of technology and reporting changed our business, and that wasn’t being done at the time I started.

There’s a standard restaurant design when it comes to opening new restaurants. When you look at construction and opening new restaurants, which we do all the time, you’d have a standard restaurant design and a floorplan to follow. At some point we started to think about how we could do it better next time. How can we make it easy for our employees to work in this environment? How can we improve the customer experience and make the guest interaction faster?

Those are questions I started asking myself after I realized I was just following in the footsteps of the way things were being done. Regardless of how long you’ve been doing something, it’s important to challenge the way it’s being done, because there’s always a better way of doing something.

By changing the way our employees make a product or take care of a customer, we became quicker and more efficient, and we were able to interact with customers more, which led to better satisfaction and higher sales. We went back and corrected some of the mistakes I initially made in my first stores, and redesigned those stores to make them more efficient. It had a great impact in our business.

Just because something is the best way now doesn’t mean that’s how it should always be done.

The Lesson:

You need to be very innovative and constantly refine your trade. Refine what you’re doing and how you’re using resources, technology, and new operating standards to not just be complacent, but to be the best.

Sometimes when we look at our peers or competition, and we feel like we’re doing better than them, we get pretty satisfied. But the world is changing so fast now, it’s not enough just to be better. You have to keep thinking about what changes you’re going to make to your business so you can continue to be the best now, and continue to be the best five to 10 years from now.

Everyone’s getting better at what they do—the way they build and run their stores, manage their teams, analyze reports. I soon realized you have to really stay a step ahead and keep challenging yourself, otherwise you’re going to fall behind.

Dunkin' Baltimore is on Twitter at @DunkinBaltimore.

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