Krispy Kreme exec says the chain's drive-thru was a 'lifeline' during the pandemic

Krispy Kreme exec says the chain's drive-thru was a 'lifeline' during the pandemic
Krispy Kreme drive thru.Photo By STORMI GREENER/Star Tribune via Getty Images
  • Krispy Kreme's CMO says drive-thrus were a key to success during the last year.
  • Drive-thru sales have been up across fast-food chains as dining rooms closed.
  • New Krispy Kreme locations outside of urban areas will have drive-thrus.

Drive-thrus have been vital to the survival of fast food and quick-service restaurants over the past year, and for doughnut chain Krispy Kreme, they were key to keeping business going during the pandemic.

"Drive-thrus were a real lifeline," Krispy Kreme Chief Marketing Officer Dave Skena told Insider in a phone interview. Through most of the pandemic, many locations were drive-thru only, with dining rooms closed. The locations that already had drive-thrus up and running had a "structural advantage," Skena said, and they were "key to keeping team members safe."

Read more: Chick-fil-A's out-of-control drive-thru lines have it facing off against local businesses and battling lawsuits
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Skena says drive-thrus are definitely part of the chain's future. Most stores outside of urban environments have drive-thrus, Skena says,and new locations will continue to feature them. Krispy Kreme sells itself as an "experiential retailer," where customers can see doughnuts being made and smell them. So right now the company is asking itself "how can we being that experience to the drive-thru?" Skena said.

Fast food and fast-casual brands across the country have optimized drive-thrus over the last year as they became crucial in the age of COVID-19. Drive-thru orders have grown across the fast-food industry since the pandemic closed many dining rooms.

Drive-thrus have been up industry-wide because they are perceived as a "safe way to use the brand" Kalinowski Equity Research founder Mark Kalinowski told Insider.
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McDonald's, already a drive-thru heavy hitter with 25,000 worldwide, says that 70% of sales in top markets are from drive-thru orders. Even salad chain Sweetgreen is jumping on the trend. Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell both notably slimmed down menus to make drive-thrus more efficient this year.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.
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