Food Golden Corral is expanding on its buffet model with drive-thrus, alcohol and curbside pickup

21:10  14 april  2021
21:10  14 april  2021 Source:   businessinsider.com

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a sign on the side of a building: Hollis Johnson © Provided by Business Insider Hollis Johnson
  • Golden Corral pivoted to curbside pickup and drive-thru concepts during the pandemic.
  • Buffets were closed across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  • The chain is investing in alcohol options to attract new customers.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Buffet chain Golden Corral is reworking its core business model by adding drive-thrus and alcohol, CEO Lance Trenary told Insider.

Off-premises orders made up less than 3% of all business before the coronavirus pandemic, and the team started thinking about what changes could make business more sustainable when it eventually reopened. To do that, Golden Corral looked at restaurants with multiple access points - curbside, drive-thru, and delivery were all alternative ways customers could buy food without dining inside.

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Golden Corral started testing its own drive-thrus "out of necessity," but they look different from a McDonald's or Chick-fil-A drive-thru, because Golden Corral restaurants weren't built with drive-thrus in mind. Instead, the chain created two options, Trenary said. The first is similar to carhop service, he told Insider. Customers place orders at a drive-thru screen as they would at any restaurant, then are directed to a parking spot, with a target to deliver food in three minutes.

Golden Corral © Golden Corral Golden Corral

The other model might more accurately be described as curbside pickup, but Golden Corral calls it a "virtual drive-thru." Customers pull into a parking spot with a QR code to scan, which pulls up a menu where they can then place an order and have food brought to the car. The chain has six active drive-thrus, with plans to open more in coming weeks.

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"Our business model was virtually outlawed overnight" Trenary told Insider. None of Golden Corral's nearly 500 locations were allowed to open dining rooms in the early days of the pandemic, and "there were some dark days," he 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.

Even chains that aren't typically associated with drive-thrus are hopping on the trend. Drive-thrus have been a "lifeline" for Krispy Kreme, the chain's CMO told Insider, and salad chain Sweetgreen plans to open its first drive-thru this year.

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graphical user interface, website: Golden Corral © Golden Corral Golden Corral

Golden Corral also embraced another pandemic-induced trend: alcohol. The chain was initially resistant to add alcohol to its family-friendly image, Restaurant Business Online reported, but as alcohol sales increases across the country Golden Corral came around. The chain partnered with Icee and Coca-Cola to sell frozen drinks like a Jack and Coke Icee.

The pandemic "forever changed how consumers think about dining out," Trenary told Insider. He thinks the changes made over the past year will attract new customers because of the convenience, while loyal fans are already beginning to return.

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

Read the original article on Business Insider

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