Maximizing time has quickly become a top priority for consumers. Grocers and restaurants, also known as “grocerants,” are in a unique position as they make up a large percentage of the household food spend, according to Jeremy Julian, CRO and founder, CBS NorthStar & Restaurant Tech Guys.
He, along with two members of the Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions team – Michael Gartside, global services director, PAS and client success, and Steve Nicklis, PLM, hardware and POS solutions – were featured in an Aug. 23 webinar, “4 Case Studies Reveal How To Drive Success In Your Grocerant.”
Julian explained that grocery is uniquely positioned to create the “perfect hybrid” between retail grocery stores and restaurants. As prepared food becomes more expansive, Julian and Nicklis pointed to convenience and ease-of-use as the most important aspects of engaging customers.
“If they don’t create a good experience for the customers, they’re not going to get engaged,” Julian said. “If it’s too hard for the operators, if it’s too hard for the customer to do these things, they simply aren’t going to…Everybody wants to be able to do everything from their mobile, whether that’s checkout for their groceries or order their food. These are the pain points that people are trying to solve.”
Grocery stores are slowly taking more of the prepared food market from traditional restaurants and fast food. Nicklis pointed out that 74 percent of customers have ordered food for pick-up from restaurants compared to 36 percent for foodservice. At the same time, 25 percent of consumers bought more grocery foodservice products than previous years, according to data collected by Toshiba from 2022.
“Consumers of the Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X prefer mobile ordering ahead for foodservice items while Baby Boomers prefer in-store or call-in orders,” he said.
As grocers have been moving to including more foodservice opportunities through the digital marketplace, Toshiba and NorthStar have identified the “most probable challenges” facing retailers today, according to Nicklis.
The biggest challenge
First, modernization, system availability and flexibility continue to be daunting.
“A lot of challenges (retailers) face is maintaining hardware, software, services, maintenance – everything. Some of the older, more established retailers have aging infrastructure they need to manage, applications are very old. And they’re really concerned with the system availability in their stores…They want to make sure there’s interoperability with their hardware and software,” Nicklis explained.
Second, increasing security, reducing risk and time to market are becoming increasingly important.
“How do we mitigate and help you plan for a five-, 10-year life cycle of your hardware or your plans for infrastructure at the point of sale? We’re seeing it in the news every day, the shrink people are experiencing…and how do we develop loss prevention-type of solutions, or other things that will help mitigate that?…We understand there’s a lot of different grocer pain points that our customers are facing today,” Nicklis said.
Julian spoke to the importance of digitization in the grocerant space. Customers are expecting a seamless experience across every part of the retail experience. This can cause difficulties for retailers who are working to expand their foodservice offerings.
“Does the tech play well together? Is it managing the multiple price tiers? Because you’ve got to manage them in two different systems,” he said. “People want mobile ordering. They want to be able to see the product on their mobile phones.”
Two stores, one building
Speaking specifically about brands that have established restaurants, he said they typically have different systems and for customers, it makes it feel like “two different stores.” Grocerants should strive to provide a frictionless commerce experience.
“If it’s not a good experience…the full experience, whether it’s the ordering experience, the payment experience, the experience, the food; it’s all part of the equation…We’ve all been in one of those grocery stores that you have to go to the deli counter, ring up your sandwich, pay for your sandwich and then go and take your cart of groceries to the front,” Julian said.
Customers are more frequently choosing self-checkout, and they want the same for the restaurant experience. Likewise, delivery of prepared foods through third parties like DoorDash is emerging as the next generation’s preferred method of getting takeout. Speaking on the frictionless commerce experience, Gartside explained how businesses can lose potential customers.
“I think that the marrying of your software with your hardware solution is crucial. And the flexibility of that is also critical because you can’t create the right guest experience unless the technology is there to do that. Whether it’s at the front of the store, it’s mobile or in the center of the store…you’ve got to have technology that’s flexible…If I go into the grocerant and I go to order food and the POS terminal is down…it ends up killing the guest experience,” he said.
Behind the counter, the same systems that connect customers to products need to connect stakeholders with relevant business information. The system needs to compile financial data in one place and provide management with one set of books. It also needs to be able to update the price files across categories.
Beginning with an example of California-based Bristol Farm’s Newfound Market in the Irvine Spectrum Center, Julian explained how the 90-seat restaurant and bar works alongside the specialty grocer.
“They have four walk-up restaurants…They also have a deli counter where you can get prepared foods and deli-sliced meats…also a full cafe. But it isn’t like any other Starbucks where you can get a coffee. There’s a cold case there in the front where you can pick up fruits and pastries. And all of that is tied in to their end-of-day checkout.”
Sharing a personal anecdote, Julian explained the Newfound Market deli is a favorite spot for him and his coworkers due to its ease of use and speed. The team at NorthStar noticed a way it could improve efficiency for the grocerant.
“Our team frequents going to lunch there. In a traditional grocery store, there’s a line. You go up and pull a ticket and you go wait to talk to the guy behind the deli…This deli counter happens to also do full prepared foods…It’s almost a full restaurant. We came to them [with] this order prep and text to the guest.”
Instead of taking a number and giving orders directly to the deli workers, an integration of digital ordering and text notifications enables customers to continue about their shopping experience instead of waiting in line.
“They’ve went from having 20-30 people standing in front of that deli counter in these busy times to almost no one,” Julian said.
Julian also explained that the POS used by Newfound Market enables customers to easily checkout, regardless of their needs.
“Grocery stores need to operate like grocery stores. The restaurant needs to operate like a restaurant. We’ve allowed the capability to allow the two sets of sales to sync. I can go to a self-checkout and take that sandwich and scan it. I can take a bottle of Italian soda to the deli counter and ring it up. And I have to be allowed to pay frictionlessly – from anywhere in the store. And from any piece of technology, ultimately allowing the guest to do anything and everything everwhere.”
Likewise, Julian urged the importance of partnering with third-party vendors such as DoorDash. Specifically mentioning brands such as Lucky, Bristol Farms, Brookshire Brothers and New Season Market, these apps provide a new avenue for grocerants to reach their customers.
That’s where Toshiba and NorthStar come in.
Gartside said that Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions is devoted to empowering grocerants to evolve with all generations of consumers, effectively adapt to ever-changing conditions, understand the importance of supporting communities and implementing an enablement plan.
Likewise, NorthStar is dedicated to put businesses first, according to Julian. From inception, design, integration and implementation, the company works alongside grocerants to customize a solution end-to-end.
“We go above and beyond our competition…We want to be sure that we deliver the highest availability of our products as well as the lowest total cost of ownership. We understand that grocers and restaurants have a very thin margin of profit they’re managing,” Gartside said.
“We design our solutions to be serviceable, reliable and they’re usable from an ergonomics perspective…We have a lot of different choices in terms of the technology that you have available to you. Whether it’s an all-in-one point of sale system or whether it’s a distribution model. If it’s a kiosk, if it’s a self-service, self-checkout type of environment, we’ve got a lot of different experiences that we can help design for our retailers and our customers.”
Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions and CBS Northstar reviewed grocerant retailers like Bristol Farms, Brookshire Brothers, Lucky and New Seasons Market case studies and strategies that helped these retailers drive efficiency, speed and accuracy in today’s harsh retail food environments, thus improving their Total Cost of Ownership and growing their businesses.
Learn how these retailers have improved order accuracy, increased higher uptime and faster checkouts with minimized technical support costs through total solutions that build better customer experiences.
Want to increase success in your grocerant business?
Register for the on-demand recording to view at your own convenience.