Grocery Challenges

Taking ideas from words to working model won't be easy.  Challenges are a running feature that challenge the assumptions of select articles.  Here are some questions that crossed my mind when writing and editing the piece:


Challenges to the Cart Checkout Model:

  • How would you manage the purchase of age-restricted items like alcohol?
  • What if someone wants to pay with cash?  Would they have to pre-pay like at a gas station?  That doesn’t seem efficient.  Would you have a dedicated line for those paying with cash?  Would that make people socially self-conscious?  JCPenney is preparing to phase out cash in the Spring of 2013.  Though it will have a dedicated area for those who use cash, I’m interested to see how their implementation works out.
  • How would you keep the carts from being stolen?
  • How would you keep the carts maintained?
  • How much would these carts cost?  The iPad is an effective solution, and includes GPS that could help track a stolen cart.  But is it really effective to heat and cool the carts?  Maybe this is a luxury that isn’t necessary because we’re speeding the checkout process.  
How expensive are these carts?
  • What happens if it rains—will the electronics and iPads be damaged?  Maybe the iPad is detachable and removed before you wheel the cart out of the store.  
  • Will people return these reusable bags?  What if they don’t?  How do you encourage them to do so?  Do they have to be reusable bags, or would paper or plastic work just as well?
  • How much time does it take to reset a cart with the right number of bags and a fired-up iPad?  Could you teach people to bring their own bags and set them up in their carts?  Maybe you need a re-designed bag—one that flips open like an upside-down umbrella.    
  • What about people who just come for a few items?  Will they have to wheel around a cart now?  How is that more convenient?    


Challenges to Kitchens:

  • Will it really cost less?  You need to crunch some numbers here...
  • If a unique chef creates unique recipes at each store, how does he film video instructions at each store?
  • How do you get people to bring back cheese graters and other utensils and appliances like blenders?  Maybe charge them after one or two weeks, or accrue penalties like late books at a library?  
  • How do you dynamically shape these packages to conform with the size of families and frequency of meals?  
  • How do people buy other things they need, like razor blades, shampoo, dishwashing soap, and paper towels?  Is this packaged in some way as well?  Is there a mini convenience store section while a family’s food is being arranged, or should the Kitchen model focus only on food?  
  • How do you keep every item of a week’s worth of food fresh and available for any customer at any time to taste and try?  Is this unrealistic?  Maybe a few revolving samples and then just a detailed description?  
  • Should kitchens be divided not by ethnic taste, but some other culinary division?  
  • What if you aren’t taking a car?  What if you’re taking a bus or subway?  How do you get home with this big rolling package?  Should all boxes be designed for public transit, or only a few? 
How do you prepare and package the food into these boxes? And who does the preparing?
  • How are visitors assured of the quality of the produce selection in these packages?  Quality must be exemplary.
  • Where is the food made?  In the building?  How long does it keep?  Where and how is it stored?  How would it be stored in the home: all together, or divided into pantry and fridge?  
  • Remember, one limit to how long these packages will last is the limit of freshness.  Yes, people may be able to pick up fresher ingredients later in a week or so, but keep in mind that at the start these stores will be few and far between, so that driving between a store and your home may be a tall order.  Can you deliver fresh food to the home?  Look at how PeaPod does it—not via mail, right, but their own runners.  Think of a partnership with newspaper subscription runners, and maybe add a newspaper free of charge?  
  • How can you build synergy with the existing grocery food or restaurant food supply chain?  Also consider the Schwan's food delivery model.

Still have questions or thoughts?  Let me know what you think: