Increasingly, consumers view their dining and grocery shopping routines as one and the same.
The rise of digital ordering, PYMNTS research has found, now makes consumers more likely to order restaurant meals for off-site consumption than for on-site dining, breaking down the distinction between eating at home and eating outside the restaurant/deli. . Likewise, as grocers expand their prepared food offerings, shoppers are increasingly able to acquire high-quality ready-to-eat hot meals at their local supermarket.
Read more: 182 million consumers now use digital channels to buy and pay for their food
Now, taking advantage of the growing overlap between the two categories, many restaurant and grocery brands are offering in-store dining, allowing consumers to meet more of their dietary needs in a single shopping trip.
Take, for example, Shawarma Press, a small, fast-casual, Mediterranean-style chain that recently opened its second location inside a Walmart store. It offers consumers the option of having a meal alongside their weekly groceries.
“In the beginning, customers would go shopping first, then stop [the restaurant]Sawsan Abublan, CEO and co-founder of Shawarma Press, told PYMNTS in an interview. “Once we break that barrier…next time their habits change. They can place an order in advance and pick it up on the way out or schedule the tour where… they don’t take the order to go. They come in, sit down and enjoy this meal.
The mixing of the two categories has accelerated in recent months. Last month, grocery giant Kroger opened its first in-store, offsite-only, multi-brand restaurant in partnership with ghost kitchen company Kitchen United.
See more : Kroger brings ghost kitchens to stores with Kitchen United Partnership
Additionally, online grocery market leader Instacart announced the launch of its Ready Meals Hub, offering prepared meals in grocery stores.
Read more: Instacart aims to buy DoorDash with meal delivery launch
Meanwhile, major meal delivery services have expanded their grocery offerings, aiming to get consumers to place their restaurant and grocery orders online through the same digital marketplace. Also last month, Uber Eats announced an expansion of its West Coast grocery selection, and Just Eat Takeaway discussed plans to boost grocery sales.
See more : Uber Eats expands West Coast grocery and liquor selection to become more central to consumers’ everyday lives
Read also: Just Eat Takeaway aims to leave “no more oxygen” for competitors around the world
For Shawarma Press, Walmart locations not only offer a chance to fit ordering opportunities into one of consumers’ most common weekly routines, but they are also a valuable chance to acquire customers, attract new eyes and entering high traffic areas.
“We saw after a while of being open [at our first in-Walmart location] that customers actually place takeout orders without having to shop because we’re close to where they are,” Abublan said.
Take center stage
In addition to in-Walmart stores, the brand is also looking for other non-traditional formats that would connect the restaurant with more consumers. For example, once contagion fears and health restrictions are less of a concern, Abublan said she wants to look for locations inside food halls. In fact, the brand planned to enter the space before the pandemic.
“They’re returning to some normalcy, of course, but I’m glad we haven’t been to food halls in 2020,” she said.
Additionally, the brand intends to integrate more technology into its physical spaces with the addition of new ordering kiosks.
Results from PYMNTS’ 2021 Restaurant Readiness Index, created in collaboration with Paytronix, indicated that restaurant managers overestimate the value of kiosks relative to consumers. Twenty-eight percent of restaurant managers said they believe self-service kiosks will be important to the future success of restaurants, while only 19% of consumers said the same.
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As such, Shawarma Press does not center kiosk ordering as the primary channel, but rather makes the option available to those who want it.
“The kiosk is just an option on the side,” Abublan said. “For example, if the store is very busy and the customer does not want to wait [in] line … they can use a kiosk
Trace the route
Looking ahead, two of the key strategies Shawarma Press is looking to leverage to grow in concert with changing consumer needs are its digital platforms and its locations in Walmart.
Regarding the former, Abublan noted that over the past two years, digital orders have grown to account for around half of all Shawarma Press sales, enabling the brand to meet the needs of consumers pressured by the time during their lunch break and others who need to be out as quickly as possible.
As for the latter, Abublan said, “We see ourselves in the next five years opening at least 100 locations inside Walmarts in different states.”