ResourcesBlogMcDonald’s and Krispy Kreme: Lessons in Strategy for Product Managers

McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme: Lessons in Strategy for Product Managers


Looking at the McDonald’s & Krispy Kreme Partnership through a Product Management Perspective

Krispy Kreme glazed donuts and McDonalds sign

Recently, it was announced that Krispy Kreme will provide fresh doughnuts daily at McDonald’s restaurants nationwide by the end of 2026. McDonald’s partnership with Krispy Kreme underscores the power of aligning product development with real, heartfelt customer desires—for indulgence, quality, and speed.

Lessons From the McDonald’s & Krispy Kreme Playbook

Diving into the world of product management with lessons from giants like McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme isn’t just professional for me—it’s personal. Growing up in the South, my love for Krispy Kreme donuts was practically a birthright (my waistline never recovered). However, life threw me a curveball when I met my wife, an East Coast native with Dunkin’ Donuts running through her veins. Yes, our household is the very battleground for the great donut debate. But beyond my top-tier passions—my family, product management, Marquette basketball, and cheering for the Atlanta Braves—donuts hold a special, albeit fifth, place in my heart. 

I love the product management concepts that come out of this partnership. Let me explain.

Just as my family debates the merits of Krispy Kreme vs. Dunkin’, businesses must dive into understanding diverse consumer preferences and adapting their strategies accordingly.

The lesson here? Passion drives innovation. Whether it’s donuts or developing the next big thing in your industry, start with what you love and understand deeply.

Planning for a Product Management Strategy

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this didn’t just happen overnight. McDonald’s approach to piloting Krispy Kreme donuts in multiple cities is something I emphasize all the time. You’ve got to validate “value”, before undertaking a significant investment in resources and time. Pilots and beta tests alike are about validation and refinement. Whether it’s fine-tuning a product or winning over your in-laws to team Krispy Kreme, it’s all valuable feedback. By the way, I still haven’t convinced them that Krispy Kreme is better. Some battles will never be won. Just as my allegiance to Krispy Kreme has evolved to appreciate the diversity of donuts (yes, even Dunkin’), McDonald’s shows the importance of staying adaptable in your product strategy. It’s about evolving with the market’s tastes, continuously finding new ways to delight and surprise. Embracing change and new perspectives, be it in donut preferences or product management, keeps you relevant and resilient.

What Does This Mean for Product Managers?

Exploring McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme’s strategy is more than a professional analysis; it’s a reflection of the passions that shape us. From a lifelong love affair with Krispy Kreme to navigating the sweet and savory debates of life and work, the essence of product management—and donut appreciation—lies in understanding and embracing the diversity of tastes and experiences. Here’s to finding that sweet spot in your products and perhaps, in your next donut choice.

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Joe Ghali
April 11, 2024