Ratingen (dpa) – After serious setbacks from the crown crisis, Germany’s fast food industry wants to expand its car collection counters to keep customers in line.
While the classic restaurant business collapsed with wait times at the counter, sales through “drive-ins” or “drive-thru” increased. At Burger King, the share of cars in total sales before Corona was a third, in summer it increased to more than 45 percent. At market leader McDonald’s, the share of automobiles rose from 30 percent to 50 percent of self-service branch sales in the spring.
More and more customers wanted a home delivery without going to the restaurant, says Burger King Germany boss Cornelius Everke. “The self-service branches helped us a lot to find our way through the crisis.” In November, a good two-thirds of the food was removed from the car counter, the rest was collected from the restaurant and delivery services. November’s high quota is also due to the fact that consumption in the restaurant is no longer due to corona measures.
Competitor Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) also reported an increase in share of self-service sales from 27 percent before the pandemic to about 65 percent in the summer; in November it was 85 percent. “The crisis caught us and sales initially fell in the days of Corona, but drive-ins pushed us,” says Marco Schepers, head of KFC Germany. 110 of the 174 restaurants have car counters. “We were able to quickly switch to other sales channels in addition to the classic one-stop business, which helped us.” KFC expanded its delivery service: at the beginning of the year, internal couriers were on their way to 20 KFC restaurants, now there are more than 60. Lieferando takes over delivery service in another 40 restaurants.
Kentucky Fried Chicken presented on Thursday an expansion strategy, according to which in smaller cities, where there are currently no KFCs, 25 new restaurants will be opened per year by 2025. For example, this is Villingen-Schwenningen, Baden-Württemberg, Dülmen (NRW), Coburg (Bavaria) and Meppen (Lower Saxony). There is great potential there, Schepers says. “KFC is still something new for the people there.” In its expansion, KFC relies almost exclusively on car counter bars.
The company has had a mixed year. All 20 locations at airports and train stations collapsed in sales. The nearly 30 restaurants in the shopping centers also fared poorly. On the other hand, drive-in restaurants managed to shine; “In the summer months, we even saw an overall increase of two to three percent,” says the manager. However, for the full year, KFC also expects losses: after 267 million euros in 2019, according to a forecast from the company, sales from Germany in 2020 will fall to just over 250 million euros.
A larger size than KFC is Burger King, which operates 750 restaurants in Germany and achieved annual sales of around 1 billion euros in 2019, and expects a decline this year. Orphan offices in city centers, the rise of home offices and restrictions on leaving had hurt Burger King, says Germany’s boss Everke. Those who work from home do not drink coffee or eat breakfast on the way to work. And young people don’t stop at Burger King for the nights before or after the club. “
However, company boss Everke is pleased in light of Corona’s adverse circumstances. Locations at highway service stations, train stations and airports were indeed failures, but restaurants with car counters in cities were in demand. “In the days of Corona, people want to eat tried and tested, but at the same time keep their distance.” This is possible with drive-ins and the delivery service feature. Investments in the website and app paid off as well. As a result, the Burger King brand remains present with customers despite restrictions in times of pandemic, says the manager.
Everke hopes Corona will change the industry in a lasting way. “The frequency of customers in city centers has already decreased due to online commerce, it could fall further.” Locations with favorable traffic conditions on the outskirts of the city or on the green meadow would be more attractive, there would also be enough space to access the car counter. It’s clear for Burger King too: new restaurants should have a drive-thru in the future.
Experts see the industry in crisis. Consumer demand has changed radically, says Boris Tomic of the foodservice industry magazine. “Packaged, easy-to-carry or deliverable meals are a great advantage over service restaurants,” says the specialist. “And drive-ins are another trump card when it comes to attracting customers.”
According to figures from market research firm npdgroup, fast food chains got away with it in crown times. “In September, the entire catering trade in Germany was a quarter less than the previous year, while the Quick Service account was only minus 11 percent,” says market researcher Jochen Pinsker. Quick Service means all restaurants and outlets where takeout is an essential factor, including kebab shops.
For years, car counters were a more mandatory task for American chains in Germany. “Today, the younger generation is often carless, so demand was sometimes quite moderate,” says Pinsker. The crisis of the crown changed that, now many consumers no longer wanted to go to the restaurant and for that reason they appreciate the option of picking them up at the car window: it will continue after Corona. “