Drive-throughs have become a lifeline for fast-food chains during the coronavirus pandemic. According to reporting by David Yaffe-Bellany in the New York Times (5/1/20), With dine-in restaurants shuttered, drive-throughs . . . are a crucial source of revenue.
According to data from the NPD Group (which offers analytics to measure, predict, and improve performance across all channels), cited by reporter Yaffe-Bellany, in March 2020, drive-throughs generated $8.3 billion across the fast-food industry, an increase from $8 billion in sales over the same period in 2019.
The latest data spotlighted by the NPD Group in a press release issued on May 4, 2020, notes that over the next two weeks over 300,000 restaurants may reopen on-premises dining and that U.S. restaurant chain transactions showed improvement for the second week in a row in the week ending April 26 with total industry customer transactions down 32% compared to a 36% decline the prior week.
Nonetheless, NPD’s data shows the decline in full service restaurants remains staggering from last year. Improvement has only been slight: for the week ending April 26 declining 71% versus a 72% decline the prior week.
Last year, we reported on Consumer Reports’ two annual fast-food scorecards, which it produces along with five other non-profit organizations to rate fast food and fast casual chains: Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, the Natural Resources Defense Council and U.S. Public Interest Research Group. We noted that Panera Bread and Chipotle were A-rated in last year’s scorecards. Both of these A-rated chains have found ways to operate with caution and care during the coronavirus pandemic.
Panera Bread on its website’s home page highlights its focus on serving you safely and spotlights its contactless delivery and mindful packaging so you can trust in your meal. Emphasizing that its To-Go bags for Delivery, Curbside and Drive-Thru (where available) are sealed shut to protect your meal, it also is featuring so-called Family Feast Value Meals.
Chipotle’s Care For Our Guests also emphasizes its contactless delivery and tamper-evident bags for its customers, but this fast food chain also highlights its concern for employees on its website: Care For Our People. Chipotle notes it has (i) increased hourly pay by 10% and (2) issued $9 million in discretionary bonuses to its restaurant teams, and (3) provided expanded emergency leave and sick pay to individuals directly affected by the coronavirus equal to their upcoming 2-week schedule or average hours worked. It also notes that it provides every employee with 24/7 access to medical experts via their mobile phone. And Chipotle on its website highlights its established protocols and additional precautions during the pandemic which include: daily wellness checks of every employee, maintaining a clean environment in restaurants and safe food handling practices, sanitizing all high-cont areas, cooking in small batches to ensure freshness and safety, workers wearing gloves at all times when handling food and washing their hands every hour at minimum and state of the art air purification.
And kudos for Chipotle noting that it has committed to increasing its local sourcing and providing long term contracts to local food sources so they can sustain their farming practices. It provides a link on its website to its Sustainability Reports in support of its journey to what, in its phraseology, Cultivate a Better World.
We noted last fall, that the fast food restaurant chain, sweetgreen had expanded rapidly from its beginnings in 2007 from a few locations in the Washington, DC area to over 100 locations in eight states while adding locations in Washington, DC. It also has begun implementation of a delivery program called Outpost that delivers customized orders to 1,000s of kiosks.
Sweetgreen’s website also includes information on praiseworthy steps it has taken during the pandemic. In particular, it spotlights its donation of 100,000 meals through its Impact Outpost Fund and now has set a new goal of serving 250,000 meals. In partnership with chef and humanitarian José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen it is delivering free salads and bowls to the healthcare heroes on the front lines. It also continues to highlight its continued support for local suppliers and farmers across the country during these challenging times.
And sweetgreen quickly changed course and returned a $10 million loan meant to help small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic. Although it is not a publicly traded corporation, it recognized that in light of the multi-million dollar financial support from investor Stephen Case’s Revolution Fund, its financial situation was very different from many small businesses that had not been able to obtain these loans. The three co-founders of the chain noted in a Medium Post that on the same day they were approved for the loan through the paycheck protection program, they learned the money had run out and many small businesses who need it most did not receive any funds. They write in their post: Knowing that, we quickly made the decision to return the loan.
(Frank W. Barrie, 5/8/20)