Jenn Abelson has tasty piece today with her business feature on Baskin-Robbins efforts to reinvent itself.
“Indeed, executives at the country’s second-largest frozen dessert chain are giving the brand a much-needed face lift,” she writes. “They’ve recently tested prototypes for new stores, renovated some existing ones with interactive sundae stations, and signed on franchisees to build the first stand-alone shops in a decade. During the past year, the chain, with about 2,800 stores nationwide, has generated more than 200 commitments to open new shops over the next three years, according to Kimmel.”
I’ve got a message for readers of this story. There’s a problem with Baskin-Robbins and it ain’t the marketing. To take a line from the Clinton 1992 campaign: It’s the ice cream, stupid!
When, several years ago, I lived in Cleveland Circle in Brighton, I had the good fortune to live close to a marquee Dunkin’ Donuts. Then, one day, fliers went around the neighborhood offering free ice cream. A Baskin-Robbins had been opened on the premises. I rushed over to get my free ice cream just before closing time. And you know what? It was lousy. The Baskin-Robbins quality just isn’t comparable with the other local and national establishments in the Boston area.
It’s possible that some problems — such as ice chunks in the ice cream — reflected post-preparation quality control. Maybe returning to dedicated ice cream outlets will solve that problem. It’s true that most Dunkin’ Donuts treat the ice cream section like an unwanted step-child. But even accounting for these problems, I doubt Baskin-Robbins’ plan will help much.
Alex Loud, an organizer of Slow Food Boston, traced New England’s ice cream heritage in Edible Boston last summer. Between Toscanini’s, Herrell’s, J.P. Lick’s, Ron’s,and even Cold Stone Creamery, on the one hand, and dairy-oriented ice cream establishments, such as Crescent Ridge Dairy in Cambridge, what’s the incentive to go to Baskin-Robbins?
Hank Morse of 96.9 FM, WTKK, has an extensive round-up of area ice cream places here.