Pandemic-era grocery shopping has fast-tracked myriad consumer trends. Cooking and eating more at home, shopping online, and healthy eating habits have endured, while the convenience model of grab-and-go snacks and pre-made meals has risen greatly in popularity. To mitigate renewed restaurant competition, retailers are experimenting much more in the realm of read-to-eat, to great success. Post-COVID shoppers are highly conscious of time and ease when it comes to grocery shopping: Making customizable sandwiches and salads, pre-packed meals and pre-cut fruits and veggies, and read-to-cook ingredient kits increasingly prevalent and in demand.
With more cashier-less, app-powered grab-and-go stores popping up everyday, how can the traditional grocer keep up? With variety, simplicity, and synchronization.
Made-to-order deli and bakery options eclipsed grab-and-go food at the onset of the pandemic: But as many return to in-person workplaces and school, quick and easy trumps individually-made items. As supermarkets have evolved to include a larger variety of meal options, so has consumer hunger for unique and convenient options. Though pre-made offerings will ultimately vary depending on the capacity of the retailer, what consumers crave the most is a well-curated assortment that allows for individual preference to drive selection.
Some definitely prefer the customization route. Ordering a sandwich or smoothie just the way they like—saving them a trip to another restaurant after they leave the supermarket. Many are willing to pay more for a unique item, and relish in the convenience and personalization of the experience; a little something new in the often mundane grocery shopping experience.
For others, consistency is critical: The same exact fresh-cut packaged caesar salad for lunch during a busy work week. Identifying high-selling popular options will help grocers maintain the pre-packaged options customers consistently buy, and do away with options selling poorly and going to waste. Strategic placement of to-go items can optimize this type of selling: Arranging pre-made foods in high-traffic areas and impulse buying hot-spots might catch the eye of a shopper who might otherwise skip pre-made sections.
In the end, a grocer committed to providing a fresh and rotating variety of grab-and-go food as well as made-to-order options will capture the attention of customers who may change their preference week to week—or even day to day.
Beyond providing variety in pre-made, the process should be simple for consumers. For some grocers, ease of use in made-to-go might mean mobile app integrations allowing customers to place to-go orders for prepared food items, or redeem in-app coupons for to-go meal bundle deals. For others, it might mean focusing on one type of specialty of to-go item: giving customers a singular reason to return to that particular store. Overall, simplicity in made-to-order will stem from consistency. Grocers can benefit from forecasting data—present and future—to assess which items sell and which don’t, further informing ordering decisions and inventory management and cutting unnecessary loss from unsellables.
Made-to-order and grab-and-go offerings can also address the labor challenges many retailers face: Simple protocols in prepared food can ease pressure on employees and allow more attention to detail and quality. One such detail should be making sure every pre-made item has a time and date stamped so that shoppers can see easily that an item is fresh.
Go-to prepared foods may feel like a whole new aisle of the store for some grocers. When taking into account operations concerns such as inventory management, order forecasting, recipe management and legal compliance, synchronization is key. Linking software systems from fresh to packaged goods to bakery and deli means not only smoother store operations, but confidence in maintaining fresh ingredients, consistent recipes, and overall quality when it comes to pre-prepared food. Even for retailers adopting third-party software—like eCommerce delivery systems or POS—additional solutions that can manage store data efficiently and intuitively can do nothing but benefit the success of grab-and-go and made-to-order. Communication between departments means success for all departments.
Supermarkets must find the right balance when it comes to prepared food in order to meet changing customer needs and preferences. Software solutions like those offered by ADC can help grocers mitigate the stress of planning, ordering, and maintaining prepared food systems. Learn more about fresh food visibility with FreshIQ, expiration date management with Date Check Pro, and eCommerce fulfillment with ShopperKit—and securing a fighting chance at gaining a grocer’s edge in the prepared food aisle.