August 9, 2023
ALEXANDRIA, La. — Krispy Krunchy Chicken had a busy spring and it doesn’t have plans to slow down.
The quick-service restaurant (QSR) concept opened 40 new locations in April alone, bringing its total to 150 so far this year. Today, its network stands at approximately 2,800 locations in 47 states with what the company calls a “healthy pipeline well into 2024.”
Krispy Krunchy’s growth comes as the definition of convenience is changing along with the needs of its customers. A driver who might have once stopped by looking for a map is now far more likely to get that information on their phone, while a one-time morning commuter who swung by for a cup of coffee may now be working remotely.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of room to expand possible offerings available to guests, especially when it comes to food options.
While some convenience store chains are considered veterans of the foodservice business — including Pennsylvania-based Wawa Inc. and its made-to-order hoagies, and Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. and its staple of hot prepared foods — many others are just now entering into the foodservice space. This may mean they’re starting from a different spot than their competitors, lacking some of the infrastructure needed to make food in the first place. Which is where QSR partners like Krispy Krunchy Chicken enters the picture.
The company has been serving the c-store sector for 34 years, providing everything from food preparation to entire cooking stations to operators who want to offer a hot food option. According to Jim Norberg, president of Krispy Krunchy, its customer base has primarily been independent operators who may not have the same support as a chain brand might.
“Independent operators who own a convenience store or a gas station that are looking for a food solution — that’s been kind of our bread and butter,” he said.
Norberg joined Krispy Krunchy in the beginning of 2022 as chief operating officer (COO) before being promoted to president earlier this year. He previously spent more than three decades at McDonald’s, moving up the ranks, before moving to COO at Papa John’s.
That background in the quick-service industry serves him well as Krispy Krunchy has started to rapidly expand. And while the company has started to branch out into some nontraditional spaces, with Krispy Krunchy stations now available on select college campuses and in a few Walmart stores, Norberg still views the convenience store industry as the company’s bedrock.
“There’s 150,000 convenience stores in the United States, and we’re just approaching 3,000, so there’s plenty of opportunity there,” Norberg said.
The Full Package
As for what the company can offer a potential partner, it depends on the individual store’s needs, Norberg explained. The company first meets with the operator to determine if the two will be a good fit for each other. Part of the conversation includes equipment needs, as well as menu offerings, signage and additional merchandise. Once the requirements for the program are determined, Krispy Krunchy can put together a package for the c-store retailer, changing the parameters depending on whether the store has preexisting equipment that can be utilized or if it needs a full soup-to-nuts retrofit.
Once the package has been accepted by the liscencee, Krispy Krunchy provides operations and training for staff both on prep and any equipment that might be new to the store. Overall, from initial meeting to a Krispy Krunchy Chicken getting up and running, the process only takes about four to six weeks, according to the company.
Norberg views the process as a true turnkey solution, a way to get partners on their feet as quickly as possible, especially those who are smaller or new to the industry. The goal, he said, is to “help them figure it all out, so they don’t have to do it on their own. We’ve already figured out the solution and can hand it to them, a sort of Krispy-Krunchy-in-a-box.”
Norberg also emphasized how the company’s c-store partnerships are not just as a win for Krispy Krunchy but for operators as well.
“We just did some initial research, and nearly 50 percent of our customers are seeking out Krispy Krunchy,” he said. “So, if somebody was going to go to a convenience store and choosing the store that has fuel, convenience items and Krispy Krunchy — that’s really who we’re targeting.”
The company isn’t stopping with just drop-in customers either. In addition to its brick-and-mortar expansions, it has been looking into third-party delivery services like DoorDash. Ultimately, though, whether Krispy Krunchy is found in a convenience store, a college recreation center or on an app, the goal is always the same: meeting customers where they’re at.
“I think at the end of the day, a customer’s going to walk with their feet and they’re going to go where they feel good about what they’re eating,” Norberg said. “And when you can do that and also have fuel and convenience at the same time, it’s a win for your guest.”