Magazine Article | January 1, 2003

Service Without The Wait

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Supermarket chain Giant Eagle rolled out deli kiosks at 82 stores in an effort to reduce waiting times during peak activity hours. Next, the retailer is considering rolling out kiosks in other locations within the store.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, January 2003

In today's world of fast food restaurants, electronic debit, and pay-at-the-pump technology, your customers get quickly frustrated if they have to wait in lines for things. Some retailers, such as Giant Eagle (Pittsburgh), decided to do something about it by rolling out kiosks at several store locations. The kiosks enable customers to place deli orders without standing in line and to finish their other grocery shopping while the deli person fulfills their orders.

Take A Number, Please
For the most part, supermarkets have been able to keep customers satisfied with large varieties of food items, merchandise, and services. There is, however, one major exception to fast service in most grocery stores - the deli. It's the one place in the store where you will find a dozen shoppers holding numbered tickets while two deli workers try to fulfill orders at a feverish pace.

Giant Eagle decided to do more than maintain status quo in this area. In June 2001, the retailer began looking at kiosks as a way to fix this problem. Giant Eagle's research led to Xpress Deli from InterMedia (Owings Mills, MD), a kiosk vendor and integrator. The integrator used NCR (Atlanta) EasyPoint 41 kiosks with its software application and had rolled out the solution at a few other supermarkets such as H.E.B., Stop & Shop, Shop Rite, and Big Y Foods.

Kiosks Nix Ticket Dispensers
In June 2001, Giant Eagle began a test rollout of the deli kiosks at 20 store locations. "We chose stores that we felt had enough volume to justify kiosks," says Doug Haniford, marketing manager for Giant Eagle. "We didn't test the kiosks primarily for their effect on sales, but rather to see if customers would use them, deli clerks would fill orders properly, and any bugs could be worked out." One of the considerations with the kiosks was that many deli clerks had been in their positions for 10 to 20 years, and were used to the ticket system. How would they respond to the change? Also, would there be enough customers who would be willing to try the kiosk, and, if so, would they find it easy to continue using the devices upon future visits to the store?

Giant Eagle discovered within the first few months of the rollout that any concerns or hesitations it initially had with the kiosks were alleviated. "After our deli clerks were trained on the new system, they realized it actually helped them do their jobs, rather than being something that was designed to add further tasks to their day, or worse, to be a replacement for them," says Haniford. "Customers also found the kiosks to be very easy to use."

The kiosks are set up with multiple order categories and subcategories. The first menu shows the major categories such as meat, cheese, and party platters. After selecting the item of choice, a sub-menu appears with more specific choices within the category. For instance, if a customer selects "cheese" from the first menu, the sub-menu will give choices such as Swiss, provolone, feta, and American. If the customer selects "Swiss," a second sub-menu will appear with different slice options such as thin-sliced, chipped, or brick. After going through other sub-menus to determine the quantity and other options, customers get to a final menu screen which allows them to review their orders and modify them, cancel them, or to check out. Once the checkout button is selected, a printout is sent to the deli department and another is sent to the customer that includes the total cost of the customer's food items and the time when their order will be ready. "Most orders are ready within 10 minutes," says Haniford. "But, even on our busiest days, orders are ready within 20 minutes."

Overall customer and employee response to the kiosks following the initial 20-store trial justified rolling out the deli kiosks at an additional 62 stores in 2002. "We know that about 10% to 15% of our customers use the kiosks," says Haniford, "and we expect those figures to only go up every year."

Some of InterMedia's customers that have tried to track the return on their kiosk investments have discovered that average dollar value of transactions at the kiosks are 42% higher than those at the deli counter and have even been attributed to overall store sales increases of nearly 9%. Some retailers speculate that people order more when they don't feel rushed. After waiting in line for 10 minutes and knowing that a dozen other people are waiting anxiously behind them, people may find themselves ordering the bare minimum. When able to explore all their options and order at their convenience, however, they are likely to order more. Another theory is that instead of spending time waiting in line, customers who use kiosks can spend more time shopping. Whatever the reason is, kiosks such as Giant Eagle's deli kiosks are enabling customers to place orders and keep shopping without having to take a number ... and wait.