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‘Bodega’ Unmanned Pantry Boxes Compete For C-Store Biz

Bodega pantry boxes
Bodega founders Ashwath Rajan and Paul McDonald

Last updated on June 13th, 2024 at 04:51 pm

A startup called Bodega began a pilot test in the San Francisco Bay Area 10 months ago, according to a Fast Company article that said Bodega’s goal is to make corner stores “a thing of the past.”

Bodega’s unmanned 5-foot-wide pantry boxes are located in apartments, offices, dorms and gyms and contain non-perishable items typically found at a convenience store.

There are more than 30 Bodegas currently in operation in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bodega’s website says it is “combining the convenience of online ordering with the instant gratification of real world retail. We’re building hardware, software and supply chain operations to create delightful automated stores that are only a few feet away and always stocked with what you need.”

To “open” the pantry, an app allows shoppers to unlock the unit. Cameras powered by computers register what shoppers have picked up and automatically charge their credit card.

Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan, former Google employees, are the brains behind the concept.

“Each community tends to have relatively homogenous tastes, given that they live or work in the same place,” McDonald told Fast Company. “By studying their buying behavior, we’re hoping to eventually figure out how the needs of people in one apartment building differ from those in another. We could customize the items in one dorm versus the next.”

Bodega uses artificial intelligence assess the 100 most-needed items in each location; those could include toilet paper, pasta or sugar. Employees regularly restock bodega units.

McDonald also envisions creating partnerships with other retailers to bring mini-versions of their stores to where they are needed, such as Home Depot setting up Bodegas at construction sites.

By the end of 2018, McDonald hopes to have more than 1,000 Bodega units nationwide. 

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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