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Grocery Opinion

Grocery Stores Should Implement Reservation Systems To Curb Panic Buying

For the past couple weeks, the scenes inside of grocery stores can best be described as chaotic In the grocery trips I’ve been to, plus those of many of my co-workers and friends who have shared on social media, entire sections of stores have been cleaned out by everyone stockpiling food and supplies. Lines of customers looking to get extra cases of water or toilet paper form hours before opening.

Unfortunately, this situation has made it hard for many others, including several who are immunocompromised or otherwise can’t shop due to the dangers of exposing themselves to the coronavirus, to obtain just the basics they need to get through the week. Many stores are offering “Elderly-only” hours as one way to fix this, but the store shelves still continue to be wiped out.

This is deeply concerning because it threatens the food security of many people, especially those who may not be able to get to grocers first thing in the morning. Those who can often travel to multiple stores to get just what they need on a short-term basis. Meanwhile, many essentials, including milk, eggs, and other in-demand items, continue to remain out of stock.

However, it’s not a concern of whether we have enough food. Grocery stores have made it clear that is not the case, and are hiring en masse to try to get shelves stocked and supply chains sped up as quickly as possible. At this point, what we need is a drastic solution in order to ensure that more people, and those in need, have the same access to food as those who are stockpiling.

There is a model that some companies and stores have followed that could present a novel solution: creating a reservation system for shoppers to use to shop for the groceries they need, rather than allowing people to stockpile.

A system like this has already been used before by companies like Nike and Disney. Nike will set up reservations to purchase shoes for any hype sneakers they do limited drops on. Disney, meanwhile, had been utilizing “boarding groups” that are called throughout the day for admission to its Rise of the Resistance rides in Disneyland and Disney World before both parks closed.

Disneyland’s system works by opening up reservations for each day at the park’s opening, then cutting them off once a certain number is filled. Anyone who gets a boarding group can then head to the ride when their number is called, and have a two-hour window to enter.

A system like this could work for grocery stores because it would control the amount of people in stores at a time. Combined with the limits some stores are imposing on how many goods you can buy, and it gives stores enough time to restock some major goods or ensure that there’s enough to go around.

Doing this online could be problematic for those without internet access or that show up in person, so it would probably need to be a combination of physically signing up in person as well as online sign-ups, with limits to each.

Could grocery stores be convinced to move to these reservation systems? It’s likely that they would have to set them up themselves (which would require development work) as well as regulate/maintain them. There’s also the possibility that it reduces the amount of purchased goods overall each day, although given that stores tend to run out by lunchtime anyway, that may not be the case.

Whichever the case, there’s clearly a need for some kind of system, as grocers have already started to implement limitations. Some local Trader Joe’s stores, for example, are asking customers to limit the amount of items they purchase. Costco is also informing people that it won’t accept returns on items like water and toilet paper, in addition to other items they run out of regularly these days.

The biggest question of something like this is who would pay for it. Chances are that the government won’t, as they’ve got bigger problems they’re addressing like trying to provide much-needed relief to small businesses (including restaurants).
My guess is that it’s going to have to come from the grocery chains themselves, and they may not want to unless they think such a reservation system is essential to business operations. One can definitely make the argument that it is essential, or at the very least, may help prevent grocers from running out of food daily.

Food shortages aren’t the problem plaguing our grocery stores. People panicking and overbuying in obscene amounts are what’s causing store shelves to go barren. If you find a way to curb that through a reservation system, then you can not only serve more customers, but also ensure those who need food at this time have access to it.

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Culture Feel Good Grocery Restaurants

How Whole Foods Turned This Mom-And-Pop Sushi Restaurant Into A Multinational Empire

If you’ve walked into a Whole Foods recently, chances are that you’ve seen a sushi bar or containers of fresh sushi in the store. They’re made by Genji, a large vendor that serves Whole Foods in over 150 locations in both the US and UK. It’s a large number of supermarkets to service, but Genji wasn’t always that way. In fact, it started out as a mom-and-pop shop before the organic grocery giant brought them into the national spotlight.

Back in 1997, Genji Sushi was a hometown favorite in Philadelphia. Run by the Omori family, it was valued for its high quality and fresh ingredients. Whole Foods was just opening up stores in Philly at the time, and approached them to see if they would be willing to run a few in-store sushi bars in the area. The family agreed, and it quickly boomed as locals rushed in to get convenient, fresh sushi.

The partnership between Genji and Whole Foods only grew from there. By 2005, the sushi business had to change models to keep up with growth, and was acquired by the Peace Dining Corporation. This helped them gain access to a commercial kitchen and distribution center, where chefs could be trained and supplies acquired and sent out.

Today, Genji employs 900 trained sushi chefs across 180 locations in the United States and United Kingdom. They’re not just prepping fish and rice at a facility and sending it out, though: There’s quite a variety in the Omori’s new empire for these chefs to cook in. There are the aforementioned sushi bars, where fresh sushi is prepared daily and packed in containers for those looking for a meal on-the-go. However, there are also quite a few restaurant concepts within specific Whole Foods locations that Genji serves.

Genji’s restaurants go beyond sushi as well, though the pieces of vinegary rice and fresh fish still play a major role. For example, you can find steaming bowls of ramen alongside the rolls at Genji Ramen and Sushi Bars, which has a few locations dotted within Whole Foods stores around the nation. There’s also an izakaya concept that features several small plates of Japanese delicacies on the menu. At Tam Tam Ramen, you can find more ramen bowls alongside Japanese fried chicken and bao sliders.

The company’s most ambitious restaurant to date has to be Sushi Kano. Located in Bryant Park, New York, it features an omakase-style menu at varying price levels. Definitely not what you would expect to find inside of a Whole Foods.

Genji has definitely come a long way from the mom-and-pop restaurant it used to be. Now, it’s part of a vast Amazon-backed grocery empire, serving as more than just a sushi vendor. It has evolved into the unique combination of both restaurant group and grocery supplier that provides fresh sushi at a direct-to-consumer level. Who else in the industry has an approach as innovative as that?

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Grocery

Whole Foods Accidentally Reveals Amazon Prime Member Discount Plans

When Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market, we all waited to see what that would mean for the grocery industry. Since the August merger, we’ve seen some scattered grocery discounts at the popular market, along with some unfortunate layoffs. We also saw Amazon launch a cashier-less convenience store, and there’s even a Amazon Prime grocery delivery option being tested in certain cities.

Now it looks like Amazon Prime members could soon enjoy additional discounts for shopping at Whole Foods. According to CNBC, a few Whole Foods stores in Austin, Texas put out signs showing 10 percent discounts being offered to Prime members.

The stores might have done so prematurely, though, as the banners were posted March 28, then removed the next day. A Whole Foods spokesperson even stated that they are not testing anything, like if nobody saw these signs all over its stores.

 

The banner claimed that there were hundreds of discount for Prime members, and to look out for items with “yellow signs” as they would indicate an additional 10 percent discount.

Some sort of Prime discount seems inevitable, as that was one of the initial plans mentioned when the Amazon purchased the grocery chain.

We’ll have to wait and see if Whole Foods does follow through on these discounts, and if they do, Prime members should definitely be excited about their future shopping experiences.

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Grocery What's New

Whole Foods Is Now Testing Sushi Sandwiches Based On A Popular Japanese Dish

Sushi burritos and sushi donuts have already laid their claim to fame as new forms for the classic Japanese item. Whole Foods is now expanding on that success and testing their own version of a popular Japanese item: sushi sandwiches.

Known as onigirazu in Japan, these on-the-go meals feature your typical sushi ingredients wrapped up in seaweed and presented like a sandwich. They’ve been gaining popularity on Instagram as of late for the visual contrast of the sushi ingredients and the rice. Whole Foods appears to be capitalizing on that for this brand new product.

The sushi sandwiches are being produced by Genji, a sushi manufacturer that operates in over 200 Whole Foods stores. The items have been around since about early January, and The Washingtonian reports that the Logan Circle, Pentagon City, Rockville, and Vienna stores in Washington, D.C. are currently carrying the onigirazu.

Whole Foods is currently pre-making and packaging the sushi sandwiches ahead of time, making it easy for a grab-and-go option. It does lose on some textural contrasts and desires since it is pre-made (the rice can apparently be quite dense, for example). Thus, while it’s a novel convenience option right now for Whole Foods, I wouldn’t mind seeing this as a dope made-to-order option, right next to the teriyaki bowls you can get built fresh in multiple stores.

Genji Sushi has confirmed to Foodbeast that the onigirazu are testing in Philadelphia, DC, and Virginia. A 4-piece sushi sandwich featuring spicy tuna, however, just launched nationwide last week. Any Whole Foods where Genji Sushi operates is now carrying that item.

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Grocery Hit-Or-Miss News

This Couple Felt WHOLE FOODS Was The Most Romantic Place To Get Married

Sometimes all you need for a wedding is aisles full of organic food, a floral department, and a guy outside asking you to sign a petition to save the whales.

At least that was the perfect scenario in the minds of a Chapel Hill, North Carolina couple, as they held their wedding ceremony inside of a local Whole Foods Market, according to ABC 11.

Ross Aronson and Jaqueline Troutman apparently built a special bond at Whole Foods, having several dates at the market. Their connection to the market was strong enough to have Aronson propose at their local Chapel Hill Whole Foods.

The reception was also held in the Whole Foods, as guests enjoyed the evening at the market’s cafe.

In a world where people can get married at Taco Bell, and get engaged at Panera Bread, why not throw Whole Foods into the romantic mix.

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Grocery News

Whole Foods Employees Feel They’re Being Punished Through New Inventory System

Whole Foods has been implementing a new inventory management system recently, but it’s come at a steep price for many of its now stressed-out employees.

whole foods employees

A report from Business Insider interviewed 27 employees of the grocery chain, some of whom had recently left their jobs there. They described the new system, called OTS (Order-to-Shelf), as stressful, punitive, and morale-depleting.

One Whole Foods employee, who spoke to Foodbeast on the condition of anonymity, described the new inventory system as follows:

“OTS pretty much holds the “a place for everything, and everything in its place” adage as its core. As much as is possible, product types are kept together, and within that there’s a tendency to try to group brands. It’s advantageous and logical for someone with a structured, detail-oriented mind set. That being said, it can sometimes be frustrating to be urged to leave a hole in a display, when there is product that could fill that empty space with minimal reshuffling.”

The program has been around roughly since the end of October, according to the employee. Staffers who spoke to Business Insider also said that on top of the organizational requirements, are inspection “scorecards” that are filled out at various levels of the organization. During these inspections, store aisles and storage rooms are walked through to ensure everything is in its proper place for each department. Employees are also quizzed on information like department sales goals and top-selling products. A score of 89.9 percent or lower (basically, not getting an A) can be grounds for firing.

Whole Foods managers conduct these “walks” twice a week, while regional managers come through once a month. Stores must also pass walkthroughs conducted by the executive team from Whole Foods’ Austin headquarters.

The employee who spoke with Foodbeast noted that at least one of the inspection requirements seemed overly rigid. Their department would get marked down if there were gaps in their aisles for products that had arrived, but were pending review before being stocked on shelves.

Those who talked to Business Insider cited the “walks” as a major reason for new stress amongst team members. “Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal,” one supervisor said, with another employee stating that “the fear of chastisement, punishment, and retribution is very real and pervasive.” Whole Foods claims that the system gives their workforce more opportunities to engage with customers, a statement that several of those interviewed disagreed with.

Several also attributed OTS to a stocking problem that many Whole Foods locations have had of late. The inventory management system requirements can lead to food shortages in stores. This is on top of labor shortages that result from employees getting fired due to OTS scores or others leaving because they view the system as “absurd.”

While the new requirements seem to be rigid, numerous, and stressful, the employee who Foodbeast interviewed had found at least one workaround to help keep product flow going.

“[As] long as I ask if I can shift product around and swap shelf tags in and out, I’ve found that at least on my team, creativity, proactivity, and flexibility are assets rather than liabilities… perhaps it’s the other members of my team subtly thumbing their noses at OTS. We all pretty much have the attitude of  “we can’t sell it if it’s not out on the floor,” so if things need to cycle in and out then so be it.”

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Culture News Now Trending

First Look Inside Amazon’s Cashier-less Grocery Store [WATCH]

Amazon just unveiled its first look at the future of grocery stores, and the experience is a lot less human.

Perhaps one of the most annoying first-world problems, is standing in line to check out at a grocery store, and with the launch of the Amazon Go store in Seattle, that problem has now been solved.

The store’s concept is simple, you grab whatever you need, and just walk out the sliding double doors.

The Amazon Go app handles everything else.

Before you enter, you scan the Amazon app, syncing it to the store, and literally detecting the items you grab from the shelf, or put back. That means, that every item in your grocery bag is accounted for, and when you walk out, is automatically charged to your Amazon account.

No cashiers, no lines, not even any self-checkouts. You just walk out with confidence, like an experienced shoplifter would.

While Amazon hasn’t been too detailed on their “Just Walk Out Technology,” they have talked about sensors being involved, combined with hundreds of little cameras working together to make the whole operation work smoothly.

As you can see in the video above with fellow Foodbeast Reporter Justin Oba, the store has a very Whole Foods vibe to it, which is perfect, seeing how Amazon now owns Whole Foods. From their in-house chefs prepping meal kits, to the “go local” signs, it very much looks like this is what Whole Foods might end up looking like.

Amazon estimated to open roughly 2,000 stores within the next 10 years, so this is step one of what could be the future of grocery stores.

So long, slow cashiers.

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Deals Grocery Now Trending

Amazon Unleashes Whole Foods Thanksgiving Discounts On Turkeys And More

Now that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, nearly everybody is putting out cheap ways to do the classic holiday meal. If you’re looking to save a bit of money on the turkey centerpiece along with some of the fixings, Amazon’s newest grocery acquisition may be the place to go for you. The new Whole Foods Thanksgiving discounts are notable, especially if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

According to a press release from Amazon, all customers will be able to order fresh organic turkeys for $3.49 per pound, or no-antibiotic turkeys for $2.49 per pound. In comparison, a recent USDA report puts the current price of fresh conventional turkeys at around $1.49-$1.99 per pound, so “Whole Paycheck” isn’t straying too far from that range, at least for the no-antibiotic turkeys.

For Amazon Prime customers, each of those per-pound price ranges drops by 50 cents, with organic turkeys costing $2.99 per pound and no-antibiotic turkeys checking in at $1.99 per pound, which is in the range of the aforementioned USDA report. Thus, for Prime members this year, turkeys from Whole Foods are competitive with basically every major retailer out there in terms of price. To get in on the Prime discount, you do need to show coupons sent via e-mail that ID you as a Prime member, CNBC reports.

Other items receiving new Whole Foods Thanksgiving discounts include organic sweet potatoes and Russet potatoes, canned pumpkin, organic broccoli, organic salad mix, value packs of boneless, skinless chicken breast (organic and no-antibiotic), and raw peeled shrimp (responsibly farmed). Several other organic items, including rice, beans, eggs, milk, and chicken or vegetable stock, are getting price slashes as well.

This is the latest round of Whole Foods discounts that have happened since the organic grocery chain was picked up by Amazon earlier this year. All of those discounts are still in effect in conjunction with the Thanksgiving ones, for those who are wondering.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey claims that “we’re just getting started” when it comes to those discounts, so hopefully, more price cuts are coming for the Christmas season and beyond.