Krystal: It’s not just little square hamburgers

February 12, 2009

John Dorroh - [email protected]


Unless you have been living under a rock, you know about Krystal hamburgers. They are those cute square hamburgers that come dressed with chopped onions, mustard and pickles. They are the perfect size for children''s hands, and most adults have to eat at least part of a sack full to satisfy an appetite. 


Well, good news! Starting this Monday at 6 a.m., you can enjoy a Krystal breakfast right here in Columbus. Later in the morning you can feast on the regular menu, which includes a little bit of everything. 


I met with John Wulf, director of marketing for Krystal Tuesday. He seemed like a proud papa, ready to open store No. 386 on Highway 45 North here in Columbus. 


A friend and I got to experience firsthand the "birthing" of the sparkling new store, and I was amazed at the amount of activity. Workers and management were all over the place, preparing for the inevitable deluge of Krystal-hungry patrons that will descend upon the site Monday morning. 


No fewer than 10 people have asked me, "When''s Krystal gonna open?" as if I have a crystal ball or something. Well, they have had a bit of a problem with the parking lot, believe it or not ... something about the recent cold temps and humidity. But it''s all fixed now. 


"We are very excited to be opening our third store here in Northeast Mississippi in the last few months. ... We opened one in Tupelo in October and another in Starkville in November," Wulf said. "Both are doing exceedingly well, and we expect the same thing for the Columbus location." 




More about Krystal 


The Chattanooga-based chain was founded in 1932 and has become a cultural icon. It is the oldest quick-service restaurant chain in the South and the second oldest in the U.S. You can eat Krystal burgers -- and a host of other foods -- in 11 states, stretching from Virginia down to Florida and over to Texas. 


Wulf stressed that Krystal is not just about hamburgers. 


"We have a Krystal Chik, which is a deliciously small, square chicken sandwich; the Krystal Pup, a small, plump mini-hot-dog, served with or without chili; and Breakfast Scramblers," Wulf explained. 


He reminded me, "All items are made to order." 


The breakfast deserves a special note. There is a wide array of choices that will be served from 6 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. There will be omelettes, toasted biscuits, if you like, and Scramblers, which are bowls of sausage, grits, cheese and eggs, all scrambled together or layered. 


There will be Sunrisers with sausage, eggs and/or cheese on a bun; a country-style plate breakfast with a respectable number of choices, and an Express Breakfast for those who are on the verge of being late for work or school. 


Wulf described other tasty treats such as the Krystal Freeze in nine different flavors, the Big Angus burger, which is a larger normal-sized sandwich; and MilkQuakes (French vanilla and chocolate-dipped strawberry) with a silky-smooth texture. There''s also chili, salads, seasoned fries, which can served in a bed of chili and cheese for those who dare. 




On site 


The morning that Tommy Jones and I visited Krystal, it was a beehive inside the store and in the parking lot. Last-minute preparation was underway. 


The staff, which includes about 70 individuals, including managers, supervisors and maintenance were using laptop computers for part of their training. 


"Web-based learning is just part of our training," Wulf said. 


And just as I would not want a doctor who was trained on-line, the staff got their hands dirty, so to speak, preparing food, practicing for the coming crowds. 


We helped to sample way too many food items -- named above -- and we finally had to say, "No more! Please, not one more thing." 


Tom Kamper, director of area operation, was on the site that morning, helping make sure Monday''s opening proceeds without a hitch. 


"I''ve been with the company for nine years. This is store number 27 for me now," he said. "My stores are in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi." 


Kamper had the look of a happy camper, for sure. Who wouldn''t be, with another healthy baby added to the family? 


Kalesia Vaughn, district area supervisor, was on site, and I also met the Columbus general manager, Yvonne Hood; and Nancy Hoover, director on premises. 


She was busy preparing all sorts of glossy signs and sales posters which made my mouth water more than it already was. 


Hoover said, "I grew up in Chattanooga with Krystal. It''s been part of my life since I was a kid," she said. "And now I''ve worked for them over 19 years. What could be better?" 




The Columbus location 


The new Columbus Krystal will be a showcase of the latest restaurant technologies, including advanced drive-thru ordering, credit card and debit payment options, free Wi-Fi Internet access, a sleek, stylish dining area and a high-resolution digital display board. 


This Krystal reminds me of something I saw 25 years ago at Disneyworld. It was a glimpse in the future of what fast-food establishments might look like, almost Jetsonian. 


I think the new Krystal will be well-received here in Columbus because I know so many people who can''t drive past one when they are traveling in cities that have them. There''s something about it, something comforting about Krystal. I can''t really explain it. You will just have to go there yourself and check it out. 


Krystal is located at 2121 Highway 45 N., on the "strip," at the front of the parking lot in front of the Belk Department Store. They open their doors with the chickens at 6 a.m. and prepare and serve until late-thirty.  


John Dorroh is a semi-retired high school science teacher, who writes a business column for The Dispatch. E-mail John with your business news or column ideas at [email protected]

John Dorroh is a semi-retired high school science teacher, who writes a business column for The Dispatch.