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Excuse me while I put on my crotchety old man pants, stand on my lawn and proclaim, “Back when I was in my early twenties and looking for an apartment, the only amenity we got was a laundry room that required fistfuls of quarters… and we liked it!”
One perk that was definitely not listed in any apartment complex brochure I looked at back then was an on-site automated convenience store. But that’s exactly what the residents of the Nineteen01 apartments in Santa Ana, CA are getting.
The QuickEats Close Convenience store is run by Aramark and uses AWM Smart Shelf technology to handle the cashierless checkout. That means once residents download the accompanying app, they can scan their phone upon entering the store, grab what they want and leave, getting charged automatically upon checkout.
There are plenty of cashierless checkout convenience store options (Zippin, Skip), but to our knowledge, this is the first one being built into a residential complex. And given the sad state of the world, this type of benefit could become more common.
With the pandemic still raging here in the U.S., and the hammer and the dance continuing as we close-open-close again, there’s a good chance that people will cocoon more in the future. They’ll stay at home and limit their trips outside the house to get stuff either out of fear or by law. Grocery delivery and curbside pickup are great, but if you just want an ice cream sandwich or bottle of Gatorade, it might not be worth the risk to venture out to the local 7-Eleven.
But if you have your own contactless convenience store in the lobby of your building, well, that’s a different story.
The QuickEats store is open to the public, but it’s not too hard to imagine these types of retail formats going behind a garden wall, as it were, and becoming available only to residents.
This was something that the ill-fated Bodega, later renamed Stockwell, was trying to do with its smart cabinets of food. They would be a lobby perk for apartment dwellers. While Stockwell shut down entirely in June, the idea of cashierless convenience might catch on now thanks to the pandemic, especially if those stores are automated and require minimal human operators.
Now that they’ve launched one, it’s not hard to see Aramark launching more QuickEats in residential buildings, especially since the pandemic has closed off former sporting event, college and corporate catering lines of business. Another player, Zippin, could also create a residential niche with its small-sized, pre-fab Zippin Cubes. Thinking slightly bigger, standalone housing developments could use AiFi’s Nanostores for a slightly more secure, standalone version of a neighborhood convenience store.
These danger, of course, is that these types of residential perks reinforce the have/have not inequalities already present in our society, and should be addressed. But the sad fact is that these larger equity issues will probably be ignored in favor of more immediate revenue, and potentially won’t be addressed as long as the pandemic continues.
I Urgently Need Brave Robot’s Alterna-Ice Cream
If there is one cool treat I wish I could enjoy this summer, it’s the Perfect Day ice cream. For the unfamiliar, Perfect Day uses yeast microbes to re-create dairy proteins without the animal. Former colleague, Catherine Lamb tried Perfect Day ice cream last year and found it to be delicious. Unlike plant-based ice creams, Perfect Day’s version was rich and creamy — just like the real thing.
But alas, I’m up in Seattle and Smitten, the company making Perfect Day’s flora-based ice cream is in SF and it’s WAY to expensive for me to buy and ship up here.
Good news though! The Perfect Day founders announced today that have backed a new endeavor, called Urgent Company, that will launch a variety of plant-based and alternative food brands. First up, Brave Robot ice cream made using Perfect Day’s tech. It’ll hit store shelves in California first (BOOOO!) and cost $5.99 a pint, but hopefully will scale quickly enough so I can enjoy it next summer.
The fate of QSRS is less grim. Full-service restaurants, however…
The NPD Group has been tracking restaurant business recovery during this pandemic, and the research firm’s latest numbers are a mixed bag.
NPD says consumer transaction at major U.S. restaurants declined 10 percent year-over-year for the week ending July 5. The good news? That’s a a slight uptick from the previous week’s 14-percent decline.
The not so great news? Most of those rebounding dollars are going to QSRs. As my colleague, Jenn Marston wrote:
NPD notes that “all of the improvement in the week sources to major quick service restaurant chains, where customer transaction declines improved by 4 points from the prior week’s decline of 13 percent versus year ago.”
As Jenn notes, this makes sense as QSRs are built for takeout, so they aren’t hit as hard as full-service restaurants based around in-store dining. With states like California closing indoor restaurants again, this type of QSR-heavy recovery will probably be the new normal for a while.
Building a Direct to Consumer Food Business In a Post-Pandemic World
While there is no immediate end in sight for this global pandemic, some day we will get past it. Which raises the question, and then what?
To help answer that, The Spoon is hosting a virtual fireside chat titled, appropriately enough, Building a Direct to Consumer Food Business In a Post-Pandemic World on July 23 at 10 a.m. PT.
Spoon Founder Mike Wolf will be chatting with Jeremiah Kreisberg, CEO of Slow Up, and Vanessa Pham, CEO of Omsom. All three will be discussing:
- What are the key company building blocks for creating a direct to consumer business
- Who are the key hires/personnel/outside partners needed to go DTC
- What is the DTC tech stack?
- Marketing and community building
- Pricing and product strategies vs distribution and retail channels
- and lots more!
This fireside chat is for Spoon Plus Members only, which is good because as a member you also get access to our premium reports, deep dive interviews and more!
Reserve your spot today!