This is the web version of our newsletter. Sign up today to get updates on the rapidly changing nature of the food tech industry.
One of the big questions surrounding the rollout of cashierless checkout as it was emerging last year was how well it could scale. Outfitting a small convenience store with cameras and sensors a la Amazon Go is one thing. Expanding that to tens of thousands of square feet in a full-on supermarket is quite another.
It’s not just a question of the technology scaling affordably, but also how easily large supermarket chains could adopt it. Big grocery retailers have thousands of locations and are like battleships–they can’t turn on a dime. They need solutions that work at scale right away.
But Zippin’s new store-within-a-store at a Moscow grocer suggests that cashierless checkout’s future might not be an all-or-nothing proposition for big retailers. At its new Azbuka Vkusa location, Zippin turned just one aisle of that store into a cashierless checkout lane.
The aisle is blocked at one end, with a special QR code-reading turnstile installed at the other. The aisle is stocked with “80 percent” items — that is, the ones most frequently purchased — so it’s a mish-mash of products rather than being the “bread section.”
Zippin’s partial solution is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it’s a proof of concept for how Big Food retailers can dip their toe in the cahierless pool without jumping (and investing) all the way in.
Second, it provides a contacless way for people to grocery shop quickly. This aspect could actually prove to be more appealing to retailers wanting to protect their in-store workers than the convenience cahierless gives shoppers.
And finally, it may help with the equity issues around cashierless checkout. Cashierless checkout only works if you have access to a phone and a credit card. But there are a lot of under- and un-banked populations in the country in the U.S. who don’t and would thereby be shut out of cashierless experience. Having a cashierless only aisle doesn’t solve all the equity issues with that system, but at least it doesn’t prevent a person from going into a store.
The reason I bring all this up is that there are a lot of startups looking to retrofit existing grocers with cashierless checkout technology. Trigo, Grabango, Standard Cognition just a few, not to mention that Amazon is looking to license its cashierless checkout to other retailers as well.
With its Azbuka Vkusa store-within-a-store, Zippin becomes the first such startup to publicly show off its partial cashierless product. Other retailers looking to get in on that action may see the real world result and start knocking on Zippin’s door.
Stacks o’ pandemic stats
Just as states start to re-open, we are getting some data on how our behavior around eating has changed/is changing.
My colleague, Jenn Marston, wrote a story yesterday about a study from the Washington State University’s Carson College of Business found that 66 percent of respondents would not be willing to eat in a restaurant’s dining room immediately. Forty-seven percent said that they planned to wait three months before going out to eat.
And what will these wary patrons be looking for in their eateries? As Jenn wrote:
Consumers surveyed for the report said that sanitation efforts like masks for servers, hand sanitizer stations, and other visible efforts, like seeing staff clean tables and chairs, will be the most important safety precautions.
The results of this survey aren’t too surprising, and actually match up quite well with a recent survey that found 60 percent of respondents were “fearful” of going back into the grocery store.
All of this is to say that as certain segments of the population rush to re-open, a nervous public may stymie any potential v-shaped recovery.
Another survey out this week, this one from Gallup, shed light on how we were getting our food while under lockdown. Forty-four percent of survey respondents said that they got takeout from a restaurant in May, up from 26 percent in March. Additionally, more people are doing curbside pickup from stores. Gallup found that 36 percent of respondents used curbside pickup in May, up from 19 percent in March.
The question now is, What’s next? Have we been under lockdown long enough for these behaviors to become a habit? Or will being cooped up for so long help us realize what we were missing, and we go back to what we did in the pre-COVID world? Or will another wave of transmissions have us repeating these same patterns? Stay tuned for more stats on that.
Smart Kitchen Summit goes virtual (get your ticket today!)
If people are nervous about going into a restaurant or their local grocery store, imagine how they’d feel about being in a packed lecture hall up close and personal with 800 other people all day.
That’s one reason why we are making our Smart Kitchen Summit virtual this year! Not only is is socially distant, but as we’ve learned from our ongoing virtual fireside chat series, going online can open SKS and the food tech industry up to larger, all new audiences.
Virtual SKS will be a lot like IRL SKS. We’ll have world class speakers, a startup showcase, and sponsorship opportunities. The only thing missing will be shaking hands in the hallway, but who shakes hands anymore?
Attending is easy-peasy as well. All you need to do is buy an annual plan for our new Spoon+ premium service. There are plans for every budget and even a 40% off introductory special if you buy your ticket today (Wed., May 27). Sign up and secure your SKS ticket today!