You might be surprised to learn that the American plain-glazed-doughnut monster, Krispy Kreme has débuted in France – and the pastry connoisseurs of Paris have flocked to its door. I was. Until I read an eye-witness account of the event…
Opening-day customers lined up at the counter in the inaugural Paris Krispy Kreme store…
Calling the grand opening of the First Krispy Kreme location in France an unqualified success might be an understatement.
“The opening was just crazy,” KK France Director General Alexandre Maizoué told CNN. “People were banging on the windows, begging us to open the door. […] We experienced something quite extraordinary in the truest sense of the word.”
What the heck was that all about?
The literally door crashing premiére may have been fuelled in part by a promise to give the first 10 customers free doughnuts for a year. But it was more than that. Customers began lining up at 10 p.m the night before. Even though the vast majority of them obviously knew they would not be getting the freebies. By opening time – 8 a.m. the next morning – more than 400 fans were cued up on the pavement.
A monumental publicity effort
KK had rolled out a lavish publicity program in the 14 days prior to the opening of the inaugural Châtelet–Les Halles store. The major event was a series of 10 pop-up shops across Paris at which KK gave out an estimated 100,000 free Original Glazed sinkers.
Over the same period, KK ‘agents’ wallpapered the city with posters proclaiming the coming of the chain. That generated even more publicity than KK may hve originally expected/City officials and commercial property owners were outraged that KK people slapped up thousands of posters on private and city property without permission.
Paris’ Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said in a post on X that Krispy Kreme fly-posters were, “littering the streets.” He condemned the blanket postering as, “illegal, polluting and costly for the community.”
But as the celebrated Edwardian author and socialite Oscar Wilde famously said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about!” Meaning all publicity is, or can be spinned to one’s advantage. Witness the KK crowds on opening day.
Leveraging the youth factor
Krispy Kreme’s opening blast is seen as a pop culture phenomenon. “I think it’s mainly younger people who are seduced (by US culture) nowadays — generation Netflix — who are captivated by American shows in which you can see boxes of [Krispy Kreme] donuts,” Maizoué said.
But he also recognized that KK has a specific place in the bakery culture of Paris, and France as whole.
The bakery industry weighs in
Dominique Anract, President of the National Confederation of French Bakeries, which represents the country’s 33,000 artisanal bakeries, says he’s not worried. He sees the Krispy Kreme ‘fact’ as a phenomenon apart from the mainstream. “I’m not worried because, you know, in Paris, we have 1,100 bakeries,” he told CNN. Those shops sell a wide variety of menu items, including but not limited to ‘everything from pastries and desserts to salads and sandwiches’.
And, with the confidence of 1,000 years of French tradition behind him, Anract observes: “We are not going to eat donuts every day.”
KK’s master plan
Given that there’s room for them in the French market, KK is planning to open what it calls 500 ‘points of access’ across France over the next 12 months, ‘including more stores, smaller kiosks and vending machines in supermarkets’.
Talk about an ambitious push! We’ll watch its progress with great interest. But I have to relate a cautionary tale that KK might well remember during its invasion of France.
A couple of decades ago – in 2001 to be precise – KK tried to invade Canada. But we already had what was then our own exclusive national-icon doughnut-and-coffee joint Tim Horton’s.
A ChatGPT comment to a Quora thread titled ‘Why did Krispy Kreme fail in Canada?’ sums it up nicely: “Krispy Kreme […] faced challenges due to competition from established Canadian coffee chains and a saturated market. Additionally, the company expanded too quickly, opening too many stores in a short period of time. This led to high operating costs and ultimately, financial difficulties. In 2005, Krispy Kreme filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada and closed all of its stores in the country.”
Well, some stayed open under independent ownership. There are still 13 locations, all in the province of Ontario. But you get the picture.
How well will KK fare in France – with all its long-established bakeries – after the grand opening hubbub dies down?
We’ll watch its progress with great interest…
~ Maggie J.