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Krispy Kreme’s driving lifeline during COVID

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  • Drive-thru service has been the key to success over the past year, according to Krispy Kreme’s Marketing Director.
  • Drive-through sales have increased at fast food chains due to the closure of dining halls.
  • New Krispy Kreme locations outside of urban areas will have drive-thru.
  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

Drive-thru has been vital to the survival of fast food outlets and quick service restaurants over the past year, and for donut chain Krispy Kreme, they have been essential in keeping business going during the pandemic.

“The drive-thrus was a real lifeline,” Dave Skena, Krispy Kreme’s marketing director, told Insider in a phone interview. During most of the pandemic, many places were only accessible by driving, with dining rooms closed. The locations where the drive-thru was already operational had a “structural advantage,” Skena said, and they were “essential to ensuring the safety of team members.”

Read more: Chick-fil-A’s out-of-control drive-thru lines bring him face to face with local businesses, lawsuits

Skena says drive-thru is definitely part of the chain’s future. Most stores outside of urban environments have drive-thru, Skena says, and new locations will continue to offer them. Krispy Kreme sells itself as an “experiential retailer,” where customers can see and smell donuts being made. So now the company is asking “how can we be this drive-thru experience?” Skena said.

Fast food and fast food brands across the country have optimized drive-thru over the past year as they have become pivotal in the COVID-19 era. Steering wheel controls have increased in the fast food industry since the pandemic closed many dining halls.

Drive-thrus has become industry-wide because it is seen as a “safe way to use the brand,” Kalinowski Equity Research founder Mark Kalinowski told Insider.

McDonald’s, already a big hitter at the wheel with 25,000 people worldwide, says 70% of sales in major markets come from steering wheel controls. Even the Sweetgreen salad chain is jumping on the trend. Both Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell have significantly streamlined menus to make drive-thru more efficient this year.

Do you have a story to share on a chain store or restaurant? Email this reporter at [email protected].

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