ST. LOUIS — Schnuck Markets and selected West Coast independents have become the latest supermarket companies to launch pilot programs utilizing electronic recipe kiosks.
Schnucks' kiosks — one situated in the meat/seafood department, and one in the wine department to offer appropriate pairing with meat and seafood — were installed in a newly built 63,000-square-foot suburban store that opened its doors a couple of months ago. Officials said they believe that the kiosks set them apart in their respective markets.
“We feel they give us a point of differentiation that helps set us above the competition,” said Larry Maggio, the 101-unit chain's director of marketing. “Our goal is to be food experts and to provide our customers with the best food information and services, and we think this is a great way to do that.”
The kiosks, operated by ShoptoCook, Buffalo, N.Y., sport a scanning feature that has proven very popular with Schnucks' customers. By passing an item's product code over a sensor on the screen, customers can retrieve a whole repertoire of recipes using that item. For example, they can take a package of ground beef and pass its code over the sensor, and as many as 20 or 30 recipes for such things as meat loaf, taco casseroles and lasagna will come up on the screen.
Shoppers can select recipes they want and print them out right there at the kiosk. That printed-out recipe then serves as a shopping list as the customer continues his shopping trip, taking him to other ingredients in other parts of the store.
“Customer acceptance of the kiosks has been extraordinary. We've had nothing but positive comments about them,” Maggio told SN, pointing out that busy customers are looking for as much help as they can get when it comes to putting a meal on the table quickly. “The convenience that seems to stick out the most is the meal planning feature.”
At Lamb's Thriftway in Portland, Ore., director of operations Tanney Staffenson is looking to put the kiosks into all five Lamb's stores after seeing the response a pilot program received at one of the stores over the past three months.
“We had more customers using the kiosk, more than we even expected,” Staffenson said. “I want to get these into our other four stores as soon as possible — the sooner the better.
“It's one more reason for people to come to us instead of to someone else in this very competitive market. For that reason, I see its potential to lift total store sales,” he added.
Competition abounds in Lamb's marketplace, including Albertsons, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco, Fred Meyer and a plethora of restaurants of all types.
Staffenson positioned the kiosk in the 50,000-square-foot Lamb's test store right in front of the service meat counter, and he has associates showing customers how to use it.
“Having someone right there in the beginning is key to making these work,” said Ray VanWetten, executive director of retail support services at Commerce, Calif.-based Unified Western Grocers, a wholesaler that supplies Lamb's Thriftway and 900 other traditional, independent supermarkets on the West Coast and in Colorado, Arizona and Hawaii.
“A retailer has to be committed to putting a person there to demo the kiosk — at the start and then on weekends, at least.”
Lamb's is one of four stores UWG selected for testing the ShoptoCook kiosks. Stump's Marketplace, San Diego; O'Brien's Markets, Modesto, Calif.; and Bale's Thriftway, Portland, Ore., are the others.
“All three divisions of UWG are represented in this pilot program,” VanWetten said.
Lamb's Staffenson, as well as other retailers, liked the fact that shoppers are printing out recipes and carrying them around to other parts of the store to pick up the necessary ingredients, thus boosting sales in other departments.
Product location, product description and even coupon-generation features will be added to the kiosks soon, like many of the more than 500 kiosks now operated by ShoptoCook at supermarkets throughout the country.
“Pairing coupons with appropriate recipes is one thing we can do,” said Jon Picard, ShoptoCook's marketing/communications manager.
“In one recent four-week test program with a retailer in another part of the country, we saw 7,114 coupons printed and there was 13% redemption.”
Indeed, both Schnucks officials and Lamb's officials said they would use the couponing feature of the kiosks to supplement promotions.
“It would make sense to generate coupons. It'd be an opportunity to tie into a promotion,” Staffenson said.
And Maggio at Schnucks agreed, noting that if results from a more thorough analysis of the pilot program prove as positive as he anticipates, the kiosks will be rolled out to additional Schnucks units.
“In the future, we will offer a coupon on the meat features that will be printable at the kiosk — hopefully heightening customer usage and awareness,” he said.