Fred was best known for his catchphrase "Time to make the donuts!" and the commercial that introduced the phrase (which showed Fred rising well before dawn to begin making the donuts) was named one of the five best commercials of the 1980s by the Television Bureau of Advertising. Fred later appeared in commercials for other products promoted by the chain, such as Dunkin Donuts Cereal, as well as new introductions such as muffins or products such as coffee, which followed the same idea; Fred getting up early to have the product freshly made every business day then cheerfully greeting customers with fresh products. Sometimes commercials would not be about Fred's work but rather showing the inferiority of supermarket bakeries or showing Fred waiting on modish 1980s customers while going into a black & white kitchen full of 1940s employees working to swing music, denoting quality has not changed throughout the years.
Fred the Baker was so popular with consumers that when Dunkin' Donuts decided to retire the character, the chain surveyed customers to determine the reaction to the move. Customers said Fred could leave if he were treated like an honored friend and employee. So the company created an official "retirement" celebration for him, including a parade in the city of Boston and a "free donut" day that served over 6 million customers on September 22, 1997. After the death of Michael Vale in December 2005, Dunkin' Donuts ran a commercial celebrating Fred, including an "In Memory Of".