| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Dunkin' Donuts on Tuesday said franchisees will open five "traditional" shops in California before the end of 2014, ending the coffee and baked goods chain's dozen-year absence from the nation's most populous state.
Exact opening dates for the stand-alone outlets in Downey, Long Beach, Modesto, Santa Monica and Whittier will be announced later this summer, according to Dunkin' Donuts, which previously had scheduled its California return for 2015.
Dunkin' Donuts was under different management and suffering poor sales when the chain left California in August 2002.
Current owner Dunkin' Brands Group Inc went public in July 2011 and California fans since have been clamoring for the chain to come back.
Dunkin' Donuts opened California for franchise development in 2013 and has signed deals for nearly 200 new shops to date. The chain eventually expects to have as many as 1,000 restaurants throughout the state, where competition will be intense.
California is home to just over 2,500 Starbucks Corp coffee shops, more than any other U.S. state.
Other California rivals include McDonald's Corp and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc as well as smaller chains such as Peet's Coffee & Tea, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Winchell's Donut House.
There currently are three "non-traditional" Dunkin' Donuts locations in California. They are on a U.S. Marine base near San Diego, within a San Diego hotel and in a travel center on historic Route 66 in Barstow.
There are roughly 7,750 Dunkin' Donuts restaurants in the United States and almost 3,160 elsewhere.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)