Twin Cities doughnut lovers may find this to be sweet news: Dunkin' Donuts wants to come back to town.

The Massachusetts-based company, the largest coffee-and-doughnut chain in the United States, announced Thursday that it aims to sell franchises for about 100 stores in the metro area and much of Minnesota during the next few years. Its preference is to find four or five candidates looking to handle 20 to 25 locations each, said Grant Benson, vice president of franchise sales.

This would return Dunkin' Donuts to the Twin Cities after at least a five-year absence, he said, after its stores either closed or went independent. An Austin franchise was the last one in Minnesota. That was three years ago.

The chain, acquired in 2006 by private equity firms Bain Capital, Carlyle Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners, has begun a national expansion campaign to triple its U.S. stores to about 15,000 over the next dozen years. The chain had $5.3 billion in sales worldwide last year.

That expansion comes just as its biggest coffee competitor, Starbucks, is closing 600 stores, including 27 in Minnesota, amid declining same-store sales. Krispy Kreme, the doughnut chain that arrived in the Twin Cities with much fanfare in 2002, closed its last Twin Cities-area outlet this year.