VENDING MACHINES GET THE 2.0 TREATMENT
Due to COVID-19, vending machines may be making a comeback, but not the kind selling bottled water and snacks. The next generation of machines—those selling farm-fresh produce, fresh meats and more—have been around in small pockets for a while, but with social distancing in play, they are starting to become mainstream. Not only can these machines provide contactless transactions, but they are also accessible after traditional retailers close for the night. Additionally, restaurants are experimenting with fully automated options that feel like walking inside a giant vending machine. It will be interesting to watch this technology continue to evolve and disrupt traditional shopping patterns.
KEEP CALM, STAY AT HOME & SUBSCRIBE TO COFFEE
Over the last couple of months, the specialty coffee industry has seen a lot of disruption as folks stay at home and find alternative means for getting their morning cup of joe. As we previously covered, Starbucks is shifting to a digital-first/pickup model, and Panera Bread has paused its monthly $9 subscription fee to offer the service free of charge to existing members for the remainder of the summer. Consumers sheltering and working from home are “signing up in droves” for subscription delivery services from small regional roasters who are seeing major upticks in sales of their medium- and higher-tier products. Once normal routines return, it will be interesting to see if morning coffee drinkers revert to their former coffee consumption patterns or stick with these emerging models.
HOW GROCERY STORES ARE SHIFTING IN LIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC
Another COVID-19 aftereffect may be hitting grocery retail sooner rather than later as shoppers shift to online ordering and expect greater meal preparation options. Grocers will need to alter the layout of their stores to include bigger backrooms for picking and assembling orders, and even automation in voluminous online-ordering geographies; they will also need to think about high-volume drive-through pickups, including “lockers and automated pickup towers.” Dark kitchens will be needed to prepare meals that are table-ready when brought home. It’s a big shift that many grocers were already thinking about but has been put into high gear in recent months.