While the line between food retail channels may be blurring in the minds-eye of the consumer both Gen Z and Millennials quest for personalized food discovery seems to have few limits according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
Understanding digital native’s is fundamental for companies the ilk of Sodexo focused on feeding students on college campuses. Success for Sodexo like many other food companies requires customer relevance enough to create new electricity according to Johnson.
To that end in a new partnership between Sodexo and autonomous vehicle developer Starship Technologies formed to provide autonomous vehicles that are now delivering groceries from a campus grocery store and food from several foodservice outlets to students across campus at George Mason University.
This new avenue of distribution provides services to supply 25-plus small vehicles, allowing George Mason's 40,000 students, faculty members and staffers to have products delivered anywhere on campus, within minutes, for $1.99 per delivery.
The Starship Deliveries mobile app, which is compatible with iOS and Android, allows users to order items from campus grocers including 2nd Stop, Blaze Pizza, Starbucks and Dunkin'. More partners will be revealed in the coming weeks.
The service, which works in conjunction with student meal plans, is intended to make food and beverages more accessible to ease the hectic lives of students and faculty.To use the technology, customers:
· Open the Starship Deliveries app on their mobile device;
· Choose from a range of food and beverage items;
· Drop a digital map pin on the screen where they want their delivery to be sent;
· Upon receiving an arrival alert, meet the robot and unlock it through the app; and
· Retrieve their order.
Mark Kraner, executive director for campus retail operations at George Mason University stated; "We're excited that our students, faculty and staff get to be at the forefront of this pioneering campus food-delivery service," … "This will enhance life for everyone at the university, and that's something we're continuously looking to build upon. Our commitment to providing an optimal campus experience is one of the things that distinguishes George Mason University as a place where everyone can thrive."
Each robot can carry up to 20 pounds, or roughly three shopping bags full of products, and is able to cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night, and operate in both rain and snow. They make their delivery in no more than 15 minutes — depending on travel distance and items ordered — and are stored in pods located around campus, where their batteries are automatically switched so they can continue operating.
Food retailers today must understand that relevance drives trial and adoption this new partnership drive relevance with digital natives. Is your brand is searching for the new electricity to help drive the brand forward. So, just what is your brands new electricity? According to Johnson, “Brand relevance is in part driven with innovation in new food products in combination with new avenues of distribution all of which are the platform for the new electricity.”
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Johnson stated “that in my minds-eye the new electricity must be very efficient for the supply and includes such things as fresh foods, free food / sampling, beer, developing brands, unique urban clothing, grocerant positioning, Fresh food messaging, autonomous delivery, cashier-less retail, plates, glasses, cash-less payments, digital hand-held marketing.
All retailers to survive the next generation of retail must embrace the artificial intelligence revolution while simultaneously embracing fresh food that is portable, fresh, with differentiation that is familiar not different. Sodexo and Starship Technologies plan to expand the foodservice- and grocery-delivery technology to additional campus locations globally in the future.
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