We are just about halfway through the year and the emerging food tech trend so far in 2021 is definitely fast grocery delivery from dark stores. New York City, which already has Fridge No More and Gorillas, can now add JOKR, which launched today, to its roster of super fast on-demand grocery delivery service.
JOKR’s service may sound familiar to avid Spoon readers. The startup operates a number of delivery-only grocery store hubs scattered across New York City. These smaller stores don’t carry as many items as a full-on supermarket, and only have a delivery radius of about a mile. Once an order is placed, JOKR fulfills and delivers it to the customer in under 15 minutes. There is no minimum order, no delivery fee and all delivery people are employees of the company.
Unlike rivals Fridge No More and Gorillas, however, JOKR isn’t just operating in Brooklyn neighborhoods. The company’s current delivery zones include most of Manhattan below 35th street, Williamsburg, and Long Island City, and Queens. More neighborhoods will be added in the coming weeks, and Zach Dennett, Co-Founder of JOKR told me by phone last week that the company will be expanding to Boston “very soon.”
Speedy grocery delivery has exploded over the past six months around the globe. In Europe, services like Weezy, Glovo, and Getir have all raised money to expand their services. Here in the U.S., Gopuff raised $1.5 billion for its half hour delivery, 24 hours a day, and in San Francisco, Food Rocket launched its delivery in San Francisco last week.
I asked Dennett why he thought this new market category was erupting so quickly. “The pandemic has accelerated customers’ learning to shop for groceries online,” he said, “as soon as they’ve gotten to experience 15 minute delivery? That’s what they want.” Dennett also said that the pandemic caused a depression in commercial real estate, so companies are able to lease store locations much more cheaply than before.
During JOKR’s beta right now, Dennett said that a typical customers first uses JOKR because they forgot something (Think: milk, eggs, etc.). Once they use the service, however, Dennett said those customers then transition into more traditional grocery shopping, increasing their basket size.
The big challenge for JOKR, according to Dennett, is inventory management. “We have this very interesting problem,” Dennett said, “We have to achieve every customer need in the fewest SKUs possible,” because the stores themselves are not that big. Plus, the inventory for each neighborhood is different, which means JOKR has to cover a lot of bases in an efficient manner. “We have to have a pasta that you’re happy with,” Dennett said, “Are you brand loyal, are you shape loyal? Are you interested in gluten-free or kosher?”
The bigger question for JOKR and all of these services now is whether customers will change up their grocery habits and switch over to speedy delivery.