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Driving desire: Getting a cup of Joe at the drive-thru amid COVID-19

Driving desire: Getting a cup of Joe at the drive-thru amid COVID-19

Front counters are open, but cars are safer
Driving desire: Getting a cup of Joe at the drive-thru amid COVID-19
Motorists wait for their orders at a Dunkin' in Wilton on Thursday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

CAPITAL REGION -- Essential members of the Capital Region workforce -- probably some non-essential members, too -- need their morning, afternoon and evening coffees.

Coffee shops and restaurants that remain open in the area cannot offer sit-down, dine-in services, following state orders. Customers may still make purchases at front counters and drive-thru windows. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, people may see long lines as cars and trucks wait in the drive-thru line for their daily fillups.

Eric Stensland, field marketing manager for Dunkin' Brands, works with the 140 Dunkin' coffee and doughnut shops in the Capital Region. He said drive-thru has become a popular option.

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"I think in today's environment, maintaining that social distancing, being in that car, they feel a little more comfortable when they're visiting," said Stensland, who is based in Syracuse and oversees the company's interests from the Berkshires throughout upstate New York.

There are other ways people are grabbing their coffees and doughnuts to go.

"We still have walk-in service at front counters, where you can walk, pick up your products and leave," Stensland said, adding that customers also can order on the Dunkin' mobile app, and pick up their purchases at either the counter or in the drive-thru line.

People might have to wait a little longer in the outside line and at the counter.

"We're working with limited crew members too," Stensland said. "We have our crews that are dedicated to being in the stores serving the customers, but there are times where we might be a little bit short-staffed so the lines might  be a little bit longer. We're doing everything we can to make sure the public is served."

People can't stick around inside the stores. They have to pick up their orders, pay up and walk out.

"We're doing our part to make sure they're not staying," Stensland said. "There's no seating available, we've taped off the floors trying to keep that six-foot distancing and doing everything we can to make sure our customers are safe."

Managers at local Starbucks franchises referred inquiries to the company's corporate headquarters in Seattle, Wash. An email and telephone message were not immediately answered.

Some coffee stores remain open, others have closed. A statement on Uncommon Grounds' website said, "We have made the difficult decision to close our doors to prioritize the health and safety of our team and community. All three stores will be closed until the state allows us to fully reopen."

At Professor Java's Coffee Sanctuary in Albany, there is no drive-thru option. Owner Frank Figlioneni just moved his business from one Wolf Road location to another at the Wolf Road Shoppers Park. People are finding the new spot and coming in for takeout.

"We are more of a sit-in place, but it has kept us fluid," Figlioneni said. "We're more of a destination place, people have been coming in to get their coffee.

"Nobody's really making the revenue like they normally would," Figlioneni added. "People are getting takeout, food takeout, fresh muffin takeout. It's keeping us going."

Like some Dunkin' locations, Figlioneni is working with a reduced staff.

"Usually, it's just me," he said. "Once in a while, if somebody feels they want to come in they can help out, but it's generally me, just to get things going. We're trying to keep everyone safe."

Contact staff writer Jeff Wilkin at 518-641-8400 or at [email protected]

 

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