I went to Dunkin’ and Starbucks to compare their drive-thrus, and I’m convinced they’re after totally different customers

dunkin donuts covid drive thru mask
A Dunkin’ worker hands a coffee out of a drive-thru window wearing gloves and a mask as the Coronavirus continues to spread on March 17, 2020 in Norwell, Massachusetts.

  • I went to Dunkin’ and Starbucks to compare their drive-thru experiences.
  • Dunkin’ has more drive-thrus in the US than Starbucks and is consistently one of the fastest.
  • Starbucks has longer wait times but is adding double lanes and new tech.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Drive-thrus have become increasingly important for fast food and quick-service restaurants over the last year.

Starbucks barista drive thru COVID
Starbucks drive-thru.

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. 

Fast-food chains have invested in drive-thru technology over the last few years, especially as customers showed that they prefer drive-thrus to other ways of ordering.

taco bell drive thru
A Taco Bell employee delivers an order to a customer at the drive-up window of the restaurant on March 31, 2020.

According to an Allegra Survey, 63% of respondents prefer to get their coffee through a drive-thru over going inside.

On-the-go orders, meaning drive-thru and pickup orders, made up 80% of Starbucks orders prior to the pandemic, Starbucks told Insider, and increased more than 10% over pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2021.

I decided to visit both drive-thrus to better understand the chains’ strategies.

Starbucks drive-thru
Starbucks drive-thru.

I frequently buy drinks from both Starbucks and Dunkin’, although I don’t really directly compare them in my mind.

I went to a Dunkin drive-thru in a building that was once a car wash.

DD drive thru

Dunkin’ has more drive-thrus than any other coffee chain in the US, with nearly 6,400 according to Allegra World Coffee Portal. About two-thirds of all US locations include a drive-thru.

This location has a typical drive-thru setup, with a menu board and speaker where customers can order.

DD drive thru

I ordered ahead on the Dunkin’ app for convenience, and because I wanted to compare the experience between the two.

I visit this location frequently, and there usually a few cars in line at any given time.

DD drive thru

Most of the building area is devoted to the drive-thru, while the actually Dunkin’ itself is fairly small. It seems like most people go through the drive-thru, and fewer actually go inside.

After ordering and giving my name at the speaker, the line moves through the covered waiting area.

DD drive thru

Dunkin’ has some of the fastest drive-thru times in the industry, coming in second place in 2016 and 2018, and winning the category in 2019.

Despite winning the top spot, Dunkin’ wait times were up 20 seconds over the previous year. The chain says it is adding On-the-Go drive-thru lanes to let customers with mobile orders bypass the rest of the drive-thru line.

My coffee, sandwich, and donut were all ready quickly. Within only a few minutes I was leaving Dunkin.

DD drive thru

Dunkin’ doesn’t have the drink specification options that Starbucks does, and it pays off in wait time. Lines are consistently shorter and I spend much less time waiting at Dunkin’ compared to Starbucks.

Dunkin’s food is also more appealing and served faster.

dunkin beyond

Dunkin’ has the advantage in food variety over Starbucks, with a wider selection of sandwiches, pastries, and bagels. 

A Starbucks drive-thru is a very different experience compared to Dunkin’.

Starbucks drive-thru

Starbucks has 3,900 drive-thru locations in about half of total stores.

The line is almost always long, frequently extending into other store’s parking lots.

Starbucks drive-thru

Starbucks isn’t included in all of QSR’s surveys, but in 2018 Bloomberg found the average wait time for the drive-thru was 4.44 minutes, one of the slowest in the industry.

The chain is working on updates, though, including taking orders through digital drive-thru screens and handheld devices for baristas to input orders on.

Starbucks smart screen
Starbucks barista.

Kalinowski points to how these newer drive-thru technologies can minimize wait times in drive-thrus. “In a traditional drive-thru, there’s only one place an order can be taken,” he told Insider. “That creates huge bottlenecks,” compared to having mobile stations where customers can place orders.

Like Dunkin, this drive-thru only had one lane that every car had to go through, but that could change in the future.

Starbucks drive-thru

Starbucks says it is designing new drive-thru ideas, including double lanes, drive-thru-only stores, and drive-thru plus curbside pickup locations.

For fairness, I also ordered a latte, sandwich, and pastry at Starbucks, though the food selection was far more limited than at Dunkin’.

Starbucks drive-thru

Starbucks employees told Insider that some stores are experiencing shortages of key products and ingredients including cups, flavored syrups, and baked goods, in addition to the widely-reported oat milk shortage.

Starbucks sandwiches are always disappointing for the time and money.

Starbucks drive-thru

For comparison, Dunkin’ sandwiches are $3.69 at my location, while Starbucks sandwiches are over $5. Dunkin’ also sometimes does two for $5 promotions, making a Starbucks sandwich hard to justify even if I preferred it.

Starbucks is more expensive and the waits are longer, but all the customization options make up for the difference.

Starbucks drive-thru

While Starbucks is working to make drive-thrus more efficient, it isn’t trying to be the fastest drive-thru around, Kalinowski says. “Customization is much more meaningful for Starbucks,” he says.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ each succeed at their goals to reach target customers, but they’re doing very different things.

Starbucks drive-thru

It’s hard to compare one-to-one because these two chains serve coffee, but they’re ultimately after different experiences. 

Starbucks is a coffee destination, while Dunkin’ seems to prioritize food at least on par with coffee.

I’ll continue going to both, although Dunkin’ is for days when I need to grab an iced coffee quickly, and Starbucks is more of a treat on its own.

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

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Bubble tea drinkers could be out of luck as a shortage of boba and other products may make the sweet drink hard to find

bubble tea
Bubble tea. bebe14/Shutterstock

  • Bubble tea supplies are running low amid a shortage caused by backed-up US ports.
  • Tapioca pearls, popping bobas, and flavored powders and syrups are stuck in transit.
  • The products are the latest among many that have faced a shortage during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Your favorite bubble tea shop may not be serving its signature drink for a while as shipping delays are keeping some retailers from getting the supplies to make the sweet beverage.

The shortage started about a month ago, according to Oliver Yoon, the vice president of sales and global marketing for Boba Direct, a Chicago-based nationwide supplier of bubble tea products.

US ports on the East and West Coasts have been overwhelmed for months as consumer spending has increased along with a bevy of logistical issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Boats, carrying tens of thousands of shipping containers, are waiting outside ports.

“It’s a perfect storm really,” Yoon said.

Bubble tea, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, is a Taiwanese milk tea drink with a variety of flavors that features chewy pearls of tapioca. Supply has been tightened for the last month, Yoon said, and it’s not likely to let up until the end of April at the earliest.

Bubble tea products like tapioca pearls, popping bobas, flavored powders and syrups, and disposables, are all stuck in a “huge bottleneck,” said Yoon.

But it’s not just bubble tea. “It’s pretty much any kind of consumer product,” Yoon said.

Starbucks franchises, for example, aren’t able to fulfill customer orders of the new oat milk drink offerings and baristas are even reporting shortages of cups and syrups. Fitness gear, roller skates, and furniture, among other products also have been hampered.

Read more: Apple’s reportedly delaying its next Macs and iPads thanks to a global parts shortage, and it’s a bad sign for the whole tech industry

One bubble tea shop owner named Alex Ou told The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on the shortage, that some consumers won’t buy a drink if there’s no boba. “They’re literally here for the boba,” he told the publication.

But consumers just need to be patient, said Yoon. “This is temporary, not forever.”

For retailers selling bubble tea, they’re frustrated, too, said Yoon.

“I get it; they’re a small business, and they’re trying to survive. We’re all in the same situation – just trying to survive,” he said. “COVID really affected the situation with importing. No one anticipated what happened last year; it’s one of these domino effects later on in the future.”

Have you tried to order a food or drink item but were told it was sold out for the time being? Email the reporter of this article at ndailey@businessinsider.com.

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Hundreds of Subway, Dunkin’, and Burger King locations closed in 2020 – here are the chains with the most closures

Subway Restaurant
Subway assembly line.

  • More than 10% of all US restaurant locations closed during the pandemic.
  • Dunkin’, Burger King, and Subway were the hardest hit large chains.
  • But others like Domino’s and Starbucks added locations last year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

10% of all restaurants have closed since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, including hundreds of locations of major chains, according to food industry research firm Dataessential’s new report.

No sector of the industry was safe. Closures affected fast food, fast casual, casual, and fine dining. Subway closed more stores than any other large chain examined by Dataessential, closing out the period with 1,557 fewer stores, a 6.6% loss. Dunkin’ lost a net 559 stores, the report said.

Read more: Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol answers 9 questions about the chain’s future including the fight for delivery profits, menu innovation, and franchising

Even fast food staples were hit by the pandemic. Burger King closed 319 locations, while McDonald’s closed 173. However, that only amounts to a 1.2% loss for McDonald’s, which still has well over 13,000 locations. Baskin Robbin’s, Hardees, and Steak N Shake each closed restaurants, while Little Caesar’s bucked the positive trend for pizza chains this year, closing 120 locations.

Some restaurants did manage to open new locations. Domino’s came out on top, opening 358 new stores. This isn’t necessarily surprising: pizza and wings were hailed as early winners in the pandemic as Americans increasingly ordered from brands that were already set up to accommodate delivery, like Papa John’s and Wingstop.

The rest of the pizza industry saw huge losses, up to $30 billion in March and $50 billion in April. The trend doesn’t apply to all pizza chains, though, as Little Caesar’s shows.

Starbucks, Taco Bell, and Chipotle all also all ended the year with over 200 additional stores apiece. Each of these chains has invested in drive-thrus throughout the pandemic.

Starbucks is making efforts to improve drive-thru efficiency with digital drive-thru screens for ordering and handheld devices for baristas to input orders on. Taco Bell cut more than a dozen items in 2020 to make drive-thru lines move more quickly, and sales grew as a result. Chipotle is opening hundreds of Chipotlane drive-thru lanes, with plans to more than double locations.

Most restaurants that added locations have embraced drive-thrus and mobile ordering, while chains that didn’t suffered, though this doesn’t explain every chain.

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

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Starbucks fired an employee over a TikTok video made at work as brands become increasingly wary of workers’ social media

starbucks barista
  • Starbucks fired an Indiana employee for a TikTok about demanding customers.
  • Workers at Chick-fil-A, Sherwin-Williams, and other companies have been fired after viral TikToks.
  • An analyst told Insider that companies are wary of anything that might damage the brand online.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A 19-year-old Starbucks barista says he was fired for posting a TikTok about work, Buzzfeed News reported.

Eli Servais posted a since-deleted video on TikTok in September showing ways he and his coworkers wish they could respond to demanding customers. “There were no customers there. We were closed or about to be closed, so we were just having fun. Nothing was broken or vandalized,” he told Buzzfeed.

Read more: Chick-fil-A’s out-of-control drive-thru lines have it facing off against local businesses and battling lawsuits

A Starbucks spokesperson told Buzzfeed that “there is an expectation that partners create a respectful, safe and welcoming environment.”

As TikTok’s popularity has grown, companies have struggled with how to deal with posts from employees. In July, an Ohio college student was fired by Sherman-Williams for his viral paint-mixing videos. Four airport employees in Fresno, California were fired last year after making videos of dance trends using airport equipment as props. A California Chick-fil-A worker said she was fired after posting a video of a menu-hack that gained millions of views.

These are just a few cases that have gained attention as companies decide how to police social media posts on the job. Nurses and cops are frequent offenders too, sometimes getting into trouble with managers, Fast Company reported.

Employees tend to feel that they’re giving companies positive attention.

“I personally don’t believe it is fair for employees to be fired over viral videos,” fired Chick-fil-A employee Ana told Insider in August. “I’m sure I gave Chick-fil-A a bunch of free publicity and don’t believe I should have been fired.”

In the case of the Fresno airport service agents, comments were almost entirely positive and commenters said that they shouldn’t have been fired. One of the workers, Tommy Chan, said that the head of airport social media told them “Nice video.”

The firing decisions can also be confusing to people outside the company. There are thousands of TikToks seemingly made by Starbucks baristas at work, and most don’t make the news. Law professor Elizabeth C. Tippett wrote that “even the most innocuous videos likely violate standard corporate social media policies.

Employees are often bound by social media policies that prohibit speaking on behalf of the company and using the brand without permission. Starbucks declined to share any further details about this specific case with Insider.

Until relatively recently, there were few ways for a young, low-level employee to create something about business viewed by millions, Kalinowski Equity Research founder Mark Kalinowski told Insider. Now it’s easy thanks to social media, most recently TikTok, and “ultimately any large company wants their brand to become more valuable over time, so they want to control their image,” Kalinowski said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

WATCH: Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson explains why he’s betting everyone will be rushing to grab coffee with their friends after the pandemic

  • Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, sat down with Insider as the company celebrated its 50th anniversary.
  • Johnson talked about what he learned as CEO over the past 12 months, Starbucks’ bet on “The Great Human Reconnection,” and being people, planet, and profit positive.
  • You can watch the interview in full or read a full transcript here.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Read the original article on Business Insider

Starbucks to release new large-print and Braille menus this summer amid other accessibility moves

  • The coffee chain announced new moves to support blind and low-vision employees and customers.
  • The announcement of the large-print and Braille menus, as well as other accomodations, comes ahead of the annual shareholder meeting.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Starbucks announced Monday it would be making several major steps to make its menus and stores more accessible for blind and low-vision customers in a release preceding its annual shareholders meeting.

This summer, the chain will distribute large-print and Braille menus to all stores in the US and Canada. The chain is working with the National Braille Press to create the new menus.

And in the meantime, starting Monday, March 15, the company announced that it would be giving customers in the US access to Aira, an app that “connects blind and low-vision people to highly trained, remotely located visual interpreters to provide instant access to visual information through a third-party smartphone app.”

Starbucks has made other efforts to make its customer experience more accessible and equitable, and the company is highlighting those steps ahead of its annual shareholders meeting.

At the meeting, Starbucks is also expected to discuss its earnings from the first quarter of the fiscal year 2021, which saw the effects of the pandemic driving a 5% decline in consolidated net revenues.

The press release also touted Starbucks’ “inclusive design,” including its nine signing stores in the US aimed at promoting inclusion of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities as well as the company’s distribution of clear face masks to make signing and lip-reading more accessible during the pandemic.

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Starbucks COO Roz Brewer is leaving the coffee giant to become Walgreens CEO, and the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company

roz brewer starbucks
Starbucks COO Roz Brewer is leaving the coffee giant.

Starbucks chief operating officer Roz Brewer is stepping down from the role, the coffee giant announced on Tuesday. 

Brewer has accepted a chief executive role at “another publicly-traded company and will be leaving Starbucks at the end of February,” the company said in a press release. 

Walgreens Boots Alliance is set to announce that Brewer will be the new CEO of the company, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the matter. The Journal broke the news in the middle of Starbucks’ earnings call on Tuesday, with an analyst congratulating Brewer on the call. 

Brewer will replace CEO Stefano Pessina, who said in July that he would step down as the CEO of Walgreens when the company found a new chief executive. The company recently announced plans to build a 200-person internal technology startup.

Read more: Walgreens is teasing a 200-person in-house startup that aims to improve healthcare. Here’s what to know.

The new gig will make Brewer the only current Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Only two Black women have led Fortune 500 companies: Ursula Burns, Xerox’s CEO from 2009 until 2016, and Mary Winston, who was the interim CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond for less than a year in 2019. 

Women currently hold 30, or 6%, of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies as of December 2020, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit research group focused on advancing women in leadership roles.

Brewer’s ascent is not only significant for women but for women of color, who are dramatically underrepresented in senior management levels, according to the latest “Women in the Workplace” report by McKinsey & Company. Between January 2015 and January 2020, representation of women in senior-vice-president positions grew from 23 to 28 percent, and representation in the C-suite grew from 17 to 21 percent, according to the report. Additionally, one in five C-suite leaders is a woman, and fewer than one in 30 is a woman of color.

Read more: How Dunkin’ stole Starbucks’ crown as king of social media in 2020 using TikTok stars, purple drinks, and coffee-scented candles

Starbucks and Walgreens did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Brewer’s reported new job.  

“Roz, on behalf of the entire leadership team, I want to thank you for your leadership and wish you every success in the new role,” Johnson said on a call with investors on Tuesday. 

According to Starbucks, the chief operating responsibilities “are being distributed to other members of the existing leadership team.” Johnson promised that the company would “not miss a beat” as others take on Brewer’s responsibilities. 

Brewer had a big impact at Starbucks in less than 4 years

Brewer is no stranger to being the top boss.

Prior to coming to Starbucks, she served as president and CEO of Walmart’s Sam’s Club division. At the time, she was the first woman and first Black woman to lead a division of Walmart. 

When Brewer started at Starbucks in late 2017, she was charged with rebooting sales in the US.

At a 2018 shareholder meeting, she outlined several initiatives to revive sales including expanding the brand’s food business, increasing the number of cold beverages, expanding the company’s digital footprint, and boosting delivery options.

Under her watch, Starbucks’ beloved happy hour changed a couple of times, causing some controversy. In 2018, fans could only access happy hour promotions via the Starbucks app, a move aimed at driving mobile sales. A year later, the coffee giant launched a more consistent happy hour on Thursdays. 

Brewer quickly became an influential executive at the coffee giant. In 2019, she was named to Nation’s Restaurant News Power List.

Brewer is one of two top executives leaving Starbucks in the near future. Starbucks announced earlier in January that chief financial officer Pat Grismer will retire on February 1, serving as an advisor to Johnson through May 2. 

There have been some murmurs that Brewer had the potential to succeed Johnson at Starbucks’ next CEO. Johnson is the successor of Howard Schultz, the chain’s long-time CEO who built the company into the international giant it is today.

Are you a Starbucks worker with a story to share? Email ktaylor@insider.com. 

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