CRANFORD, NJ — Traffic engineer Nicholas Verderese for NATC Donuts Inc. testified at Monday night's zoning board meeting that the proposed Dunkin' drive-thru at 49 South Avenue West would be the first in New Jersey to have a double ordering board and queue line.

The application looks to repurpose the former gas station to a coffee shop with a drive-thru. Anthony D'Amore, the operator and franchisee of the existing Dunkin located in the shopping center at 6-20 South Avenue East in Cranford is looking to relocate to the plot of land that has sat empty for over 10 years.

According to his traffic study, Verderese said that peak traffic hours for the area of the proposed drive-thru are 7:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. on weekdays and noon on Saturdays. In comparison to the property’s former use of a gas station with bays, Verderese said he expects the property to experience an increase in traffic in the morning peak hour, but a reduction in the evening peak.

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"We do anticipate since Dunkin' has a higher morning peak hour traffic volume, some increase of traffic in the morning peak hour,” he said. “In the evening peak hour versus the previous use, we have a reduction in traffic, pretty similar to the increase in the morning. On Saturday, we have a slight increase of about 20 vehicles during the peak hour. So in general, the traffic isn't going to be that different from what you saw previously when this operated as the fully operational gas station with bays." 

Verderese called the proposed building a "relatively small Dunkin'" compared to what they typically build. The inside would only consist of six seats and there would be 10 parking spaces on the property. He projects 80% of traffic to the site will be to the drive-thru and 20% walk-in. Each morning before opening, there would be one donut truck delivery, which Verderese said takes about 10 minutes. The property would also see one box truck delivery per week between the off peak hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

While New Jersey has seen more Dunkin drive-thrus pop up, Verderese said this would be the first Dunkin’ drive-thru in New Jersey with two menu board lines to order from. Following placing your order, the two lines then blend into one and the vehicle proceeds to a payment window, followed by a pick-up window. He mentioned that he and the applicant decided to go with two menu order boards because of the traffic problems the drive-thru Starbucks on North Avenue East has experienced, and this would allow the property to process twice as many orders to keep the lines moving.

"We've over-designed this site for the specific reason that we knew you had issues in town with another coffee shop."

In comparison to the drive-thru Starbucks which holds 10-11 cars before backing-up traffic on North Avenue, the proposed Dunkin wouldn’t bleed-out onto South Avenue until roughly 19 cars reach the property. Verderese again pointed out along with it taking 19 cars, the Dunkin’ would be able to process twice as many cars with the two menu boards compared to the one at Starbucks. He also said of the Dunkin drive-thrus he studied with just one menu order board, he never saw more than 16 vehicles at a time in line. 

Verderese also called Starbucks a “different animal” when it comes to order times. According to his studies, it takes “approximately three and a half minutes” from the order board to receiving the order in a Starbucks drive-thru while Dunkin’ takes “a little over two minutes.” He credited the shorter time at Dunkin’ to its menu items taking less time to prepare.

While more concerns were raised by residents and board members such as new developments on South Avenue that will further increase the traffic, illegal turns into and out of the property, and more, Verderese said that they plan to study the traffic of the first six months after the property opens, and could make further adjustments if needed.

The application will continue on Monday, Oct. 5 where a planner for NATC Donuts, Inc. is expected to testify.