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Prior to the pandemic, I never grocery shopped at Walmart. It was too far away and I wanted to support my local supermarket. Throughout this pandemic, however, I’ve been at Walmart every week for my curbside grocery pickups. One reasons I’m such a frequent Walmarter now is that they make the whole process of getting groceries via curbside easy. I place my order, schedule my pickup time and when my groceries are ready, they send me a notification on my phone.
Part of that notification asks me to check-in with the Walmart app to let the store know I’m on my way. As I pull into their parking lot, the app automatically recognizes that I’ve arrived, thanks to the GPS on my phone and Walmart’s geofencing technology. Once I specify my parking stall, a Walmart staffer is out with my order and bada-boom, bada-bing, in minutes my trunk is loaded, no human contact has occurred and I’m on my way back home to shelter in place for another week.
Contrast Walmart with the curbside pickup experience at my local Safeway, which is a lot closer than the Walmart but does not have geofencing in its app. When I arrive at the store, I have to call a special number to let them know I’ve arrived, they ask me what stall I’m in and then send someone with my order out. Obviously my calling a number isn’t a huge deal, but it’s one extra step, and one more thing for a human staffer at Safeway to deal with all day while dealing with all the other changes this pandemic has brought with it.
Contactless is going to be the word of 2020, especially as it relates to food delivery and curbside pickup, and geofencing is going to play an increasingly important part of that. Yesterday, Panera announced geofence-enabled curbside pickup for orders, and IBM has been touting Safe Queue, a virtual line app powered in part by geofencing that was created for Big Blue’s Call for Code Global Challenge contest.
As a technology, geofencing has actually been around for long time. But it will take on more importance as restaurants and grocers look to efficiently maximize their revenues while reducing human-to-human contact. Restaurants that must operate at reduced dine-in capacity need a robust off-premises plan, including curbside pickup, and people are still scared of going into the grocery store itself, requiring pickup options as well.
Geofencing means orders can be fulfilled more quickly because the restaurant or supermarket knows when you’ve arrived. Walmart may have huge parking lots and plenty of space for cars pickup up orders, but a lot of restaurants and independent grocers don’t. They’ll need to make the most of their physical takeout/pickup space. The faster a curbside order is handed off, the faster cars turn over in the parking lot and the more orders can be fulfilled.
There is obviously a privacy tradeoff with geofencing. Some people may not want to hand over their location data to Walmart, Panera or whomever, and that’s okay. Different strokes and all. Privacy is a constant question we come up against in this connected world, and we should definitely hold businesses accountable to being good stewards of our data.
There are lots of changes consumer facing food businesses will need to make (and re-make) in order to survive this pandemic. But if curbside pickups are part of your plan, you should fire up the geofencing now.
Woot! Founder Launches Pasta by Mail
It kinda makes sense that Matt Rutledge, the founder of Woot!, an e-commerce site known for its sense of humor, would choose noodles for a food-related project. I mean, noodles are funny, especially the way Rutledge is selling them.
Rutledge launched PastaDrop, a “pasta as a service” online pop-up that lets you buy random amounts of pasta and have it sent to friends. PastaDrop determines the quantity of noodles being shipped and hilarity ensues (again, because noodles = funny).
Spoon founder Mike Wolf reached out to Rutledge for an email interview to find out more about PastaDrop. You should read the whole exchange (it’s very entertaining), but here’s an amuse-bouche to get you started:
Wolf: Why pasta?
This is our first Pasta experience! What a product! There is a subset of variety with personal opinion. There are amazing recipes to share. It’s a comfort food. It has a long shelf life and can be transported without much risk of damage. It is quite dense and therefore efficient to ship; hundreds of servings can fit in a box. Best of all it can be funny in mass quantities! Oh, and there are pasta puns — we love puns!
Sign Up for Spoon Plus, Our New Membership Insights & Virtual Events Community
Last week we announced the launch of Spoon Plus, our new membership community that gives you exclusive deep dives on food tech trends, original market research, and virtual events with the smartest people in the industry.
You can read Mike’s post about the launch of Plus here to learn about why we’re so excited about it.
There’s a plan for every budget, and if you buy an annual subscription, you get a ticket to Smart Kitchen Summit Virtual 2020, the industry-leading global food tech summit.
Spoon Plus is our chance and yours to connect on a deeper level and engage with the issues in a more meaningful way. We are offering a one-time charter member discount of 40% for those that join by the end of this week. Join today and use coupon code LAUNCH at check out.
This Week At The Spoon
- Miso Robotics Partners with PathSpot for More Automated Hygiene in Restaurants
- JUST Partners with Michael Foods to Grow Foodservice Sales of Plant-based Egg
- Macco Robotics’ New “DBot” Modular Restaurant Robot Delivers Food and Disinfects
- Would You Prefer to Stand in a Virtual Line When Going to the Grocery Store?
- Omnipork Launches Plant-based Alternatives to “Spam” and Pork Shoulder in Asia
The Latest From Spoon Plus (subscription required)
- COVID-19’s Impact on the Appliance and Housewares Market
- A Conversation With Taichi Isaku on How Japan’s Food Industry is Dealing With COVID-19
- Customize Food Personalization Summit: The Full Sessions
Upcoming Spoon Virtual Events
- From Sourdough to the End of Meat: A Conversation About Fermentation as a Food Tech Platform (May 21st)
- Virtual Workshop: Designing a Resilient Food System For A Post-COVID World (May 28th)
- Virtual Workshop: How to Think Like a Food Futurist in Uncertain Times (June 4th)
- The Spoon Food Tech Pitch Sesh (June 18th)