The Heartwarming Reason Everyone Is Talking About This Wendy's Employee

Since Oct. 3, 2020, April DiDonna, an assistant manager at the Wendy's in Oak Harbor, Wash., has been telling customers "I love you. You are loved. You matter. You do you. I love you." DiDonna explained her reasoning to her local newspaper, the Whidbey News-Times: "If people can hate for no reason, why can't I love?" Her sentiment seems especially pertinent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a time when isolated people might need to hear this message.

By the end of 2020, more than 2,500 customers had reciprocated DiDonna's message. On Facebook, where the Whidbey News-Times posted a link to the story, 165 people commented, all gushing about how they love DiDonna's message. "We don't even eat fast food," one wrote, "but always stop by Wendy's when on the north end just because she is so awesome! We love you too, April!" Per the general consensus, it's obvious that such reminders helped lift their spirits.

Management, as one might imagine, enjoyed the positive publicity. "Her kindness and positivity inspire us all," David Antis, senior vice president of operations for WTC Ventures, told CNN, "and we are grateful for the joy that she brings to our customers and restaurant team." 

What this means for the future of the drive-thru

According to the Whidbey News-Times, April DiDonna's encounters with her customers take place via the drive-thru. In the midst of the pandemic it's no surprise why these interactions continue to occurring from a (social) distance, but it is worth highlighting how central the drive-thru has become in the months since quarantine and lockdowns began. After all, remote eating seems well set to become the industry's future.

As early as March 2020, QSR reported that 90 percent of Wendy's sales were coming from the drive-thru. By November 2020, Forbes picked up on reports of the chain contemplating a drive-thru-only model. "We have a new appetite to look at a drive-thru-only restaurant and we've got some prototypes that are going out in place to continue to test and learn on that front," Todd Penegor, the company's CEO, announced. 

Wendy's has demonstrated similar interest during the rollout of its recent expansion in India. According to a December piece published by CNN, Wendy's will collaborate with the Mumbai-based Rebel Foods to develop 250 cloud kitchens in India. Cloud kitchens are facilities that exist only to produce food for delivery. The cloud kitchen industry is expected to grow by 12 percent by 2027, reaching a worth of $71.4 billion.

How such a future will coexist with the personal touch DiDonna's heart felt statements to her customers added to the experience, of course, remains to be seen.