You're Not in the Donut Business

You're Not in the Donut Business

Dunkin’ Donuts has made a very astute move. They’ve dropped the “Donuts” from their name. From now on, they will simply be known as “Dunkin’.”

Why was this a strategic move? Because, as a business, they are more than donuts. In fact, much more. Most of their business comes from beverages and by dropping the “Donuts” from their name, they can now freely pursue being “beverage-led.”

And in just being Dunkin’, they leave their pivot foot in place for if/when they aren’t beverage-led anymore. Who knows what the future will hold? Right now, 58% of their sales are beverages. In years to come, 58% of their sales could be bagels. They just don’t know.

They are not alone in following this branding strategy. In 2011, Starbucks Coffee became just Starbucks. Then-CEO Howard Schultz noted, “It’s possible we’ll have other products with our name on it and no coffee in it.”


Even Weight Watchers is becoming “WW,” opening up a new mission that is less focused on dieting and more focused on health and wellness.

It reminds me of a historical lesson. In the late 1800s, no business matched the financial and political dominance of the railroad. Trains ruled the transportation industry of the United States, moving both people and goods throughout the country.

Then a new discovery came along – the car – but incredibly, the leaders of the railroad industry did not take advantage of their unique position to participate in this transportation development. The automotive revolution was happening all around them and they did not use their industry dominance to take hold of the opportunity.

In his video The Search for Excellence, Tom Peters pointed out the reason: the railroad barons didn’t understand what business they were in. Peters observes that: “… they thought they were in the train business. But, they were in fact in the transportation business. Time passed them by, as did opportunity. They couldn’t see what their real purpose was.”

So if Dunkin’ isn’t in the donut business but the food and beverage business, and Weight Watchers isn’t in the diet business but the health and wellness business, what about the church?

Well, you’re not in the Sunday School business, the Awana business, the Upward Sports business, the Men’s Fraternity business, the Catalyst business, or any other programmatic business. 

Let’s go further: you’re not in the small group business, women’s ministry business, men’s ministry business or any other sub-ministry business. All of these may be well and good and helpful, but they are not your business and should not be treated as such.

Do you know what business you’re in? 

You are in the business of evangelizing the lost, assimilating the evangelized, discipling the assimilated and unleashing the discipled. It’s been that way for nearly 2,000 years. 

Everything else is just donuts.

James Emery White



Vanessa Romo, “Dunkin’ Deletes Donuts from Its Name,” NPR, September 26, 2018, read online.


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.