Baskin-Robbins recently announced its plan to honor military service members on Veteran’s Day with a new ice cream flavor of the month: “First Class Camouflage.” It looks delicious, and I’m thrilled that the company had the creativity and ability to launch the product.

Had the news release stopped there, I’d be at one of their stores purchasing some ice cream instead of writing this article.

The article then went on to say that the company’s stated goal is to “help Vets start their own business.” To support this initiative, Baskin-Robbins will be waiving the $25,000 licensing fee, offering a 0% royalty rate for the first two years, and offer a discounted royalty rate for years 3-5.

That’s a pretty sweet deal, and the public relations campaign worked flawlessly. I’ve seen that news release shared thousands of times on every social media platform that exists. Let’s all take a moment to feel good about what Baskin-Robbins is doing to be a “veteran-friendly” and socially responsible company.

OK. The moment has passed.

Let me share some information with you that didn’t make it into the news release, but can be found in the Franchisee Requirements section of the Dunkin’ Brands website – the parent company of Baskin-Robbins. This applies to ALL franchisees, veterans included.

1. The financial requirement to be considered for a new Baskin-Robbins franchise location is a minimum of $100,000 in liquid assets for a single unit and a minimum $300,000 net worth.

2. Dunkin’ Brands does not provide any type of financing. You’re on your own.

If you’re a military veteran with great credit, no less than $100,000 in the bank and possess assets in excess of $300,000 this is probably a great opportunity for you. Most veterans I know don’t fall into this category.

Even if you find yourself in this fortunate position, you’ll want to dig a little deeper to find out why Dunkin’ Brands is committing itself to such an aggressive recruiting effort to get veteran franchisees into its Baskin-Robbins brand.

A quick look at the company’s Form 10 K – the required financial reporting document publicly traded companies have to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission – will answer those questions immediately.

As a company, Dunkin’ Brands is doing quite well. Baskin-Robbins, however, seems to be circling the drain in a slow death spiral.

1. In 2012, Dunkin’ Doughnuts opened 291 new stores. In the same year, Baskin-Robbins closed 30.

2. In 2013, Dunkin’ Doughnuts opened 371 new stores. In the same year, Baskin-Robbins opened 4.

Admittedly, the Dunkin’ Brands profit model is solid. According to their 10-K, “Our franchisees fund substantially all of the advertising that supports both brands. Those advertising funds also fund the cost of our marketing, research and development, and innovation personnel. Royalty payments and advertising fund contributions typically are made on a weekly basis for restaurants in the U.S., which limits our working capital needs. For fiscal year 2013, franchisee contributions to the U.S. advertising funds were $356.1 million.”

Does Baskin-Robbins want to “help vets start their own business,” or does Dunkin’ Brands need veteran franchisee money to pay their bills and save a dying ice cream concept? You’ll have to make that call.

In my opinion, creating a unique ice cream flavor to honor the men and women of our Armed Forces on Veteran’s Day is absolutely fantastic. To launch promotional campaigns that exploit the “pro-veteran” sentiment while pursuing ulterior motives bothers me.

Dear Baskin-Robbins: It’s the ice cream, not the military veteran, that’s supposed to be the “Flavor of the Month.”

As we prepare to honor our brave men and women in uniform on this Veteran’s Day, both past and present, let’s remember a few truths that Corporate America seems to have forgotten.

Our military veterans are not timely commodities to be exploited for the purpose of profit and falsely-earned goodwill. They’re not an entitlement class to be traded for political favor and economic gain. They’re not victims to be showcased publicly, pitied, and used to garner consumer support.

Our military veterans are selfless patriots prepared to sacrifice everything to ensure the freedoms and liberties that the American public enjoys on a daily basis. They serve the greater good of humanity and they do so voluntarily without hesitation.

Accordingly, on this Veteran’s Day, thank and honor them for their service. They’ve earned that right and they deserve the recognition.

I’m sure it will mean much more to them – and feel much better to you – than a bowl of camouflage ice cream.


Michael Kaplan is a military veteran, serial entrepreneur and author. If you enjoyed this article, see his most recent book: The Prior-Service Entrepreneur: Providing Military Veterans with the Competitive Skills to Start a Successful Business. You’re invited to connect with Michael on Twitter and Facebook as well.