It’s not uncommon in the Albrecht house to, at four o’clock in the afternoon, realize that we don’t have anything really for dinner. More often than not, the solution is to swing by the grocery store and pick up a broiler chicken from the hot bar. And while we’re at it, maybe a salad and sides too.
It’s a lot cheaper than getting a restaurant meal, and we can bundle it in with any other groceries we need to get. Plus, while we have done nothing other than pay, having a roast chicken kinda provides the illusion that the family is eating a home cooked meal.
Instacart announced this week that it was rolling out delivery of made-to-order foods, and this move could be a very big deal. And not just for the Albrechts.
The Instacart press announcement mentioned the deli counter of a grocery store in particular, but it’s not hard to imagine all of the hot bar and salad bar areas of a retailer jumping on board. Rotisserie chickens, flatbread pizzas, orzo salads all of it available for delivery to customers.
Supermarkets are already focusing more on prepared foods. A Progressive Grocer Retail Deli Review survey last year found:
The vast majority of survey respondents said that their prepared food programs are increasing both in dollar (78 percent) and unit (80 percent) sales. Additionally, nearly 70 percent of respondents said that they’re either “significantly” or “modestly” increasing the space devoted to prepared foods.
While online grocery shopping is still a small percentage of overall grocery sales, adding the ability to get hot, prepared grocery food delivered to your door is a good way for a retailer to get a halo of additional sales online. Much like when I pick up a roast chicken, I also get milk and probably a dessert of some kind, it’s likely that when ordering a hot, prepared meal I’d throw a few more things into the basket.
In particular, Amazon and Walmart could get a nice jolt from selling more prepared foods for delivery. A quick perusal of Amazon/Whole Foods and Walmart websites shows that they currently offer some prepared foods for delivery, but there is a lot of room to add more. Given the lightning fast logistics of both companies (Amazon Prime members get two hour delivery, Walmart offers Delivery Unlimited), it’s not hard to envision just in time delivery of a hot dinner to your door.
Additionally, think about all the new types of data that could be gleaned selling prepared meals for delivery would translate into. In addition to a customer’s CPG buying habits, the company would get much more insight at what people eat and they actually eat it.
For its part, Instacart can provide the delivery and logistics to its retail partners, but then retailers are turning over that customer relationship to a third-party delivery service. If made-to-go meal delivery takes off, it could wind up biting Instacart in the basket and retailers bring that customer relationship back in-house.
This could also set up another front in the third-party delivery wars. Postmates, Door Dash and Uber Eats have dabbled in grocery, leaving it mostly to Instacart. But when the groceries you’re delivering are actual hot meals for dinner, you could see Door Dash and Uber Eats get more aggressive about forming grocery relationships.
There are still plenty of ifs, surrounding the idea of delivery of made-to-go meals from grocery stores. But at least Instacart isn’t too chicken to try the idea out.