Have people had their fill of contact-free retail?
Contact-free retail became a priority, a selling point and a necessity for retailers at the beginning of the pandemic. The efforts by QSRs and other retail locations to cut down contact with customers, however, is raising questions about the threat of compromising the customer experience.
A viral video on TikTok from earlier this year depicts a new pickup-only Starbucks location at Hillsborough and Pogue Street in Raleigh, NC. The clip’s narrator says that the baristas in the location are “hidden,” a fact that did not sit well with ZDNet contributor Chris Matyszczyk, who in his assessment of the video, lamented the loss of friendly customer interaction. Further concerning to Mr. Matyszczyk was the enthusiasm of people purporting to be baristas and ex-baristas in the video’s comments, which celebrated the outlet as a perfect place to work, as it would theoretically prevent unpleasant face-to-face customer interactions and confrontations.
Not all baristas appear to share such negative sentiments about customer interaction. GeekWire reported that when the first Manhattan pickup-only Starbucks opened, baristas complained of the layout making it difficult to connect with customers, leading to a redesign.
Starbucks is not the only QSR now offering customers an experience with minimal human contact.
Canadian restaurant Box’d has fully removed face-to-face interaction between staff and customers, according to an article in QSR Magazine. Box’d, which launched in mid-2020, allows customers to order via phone, computer or in-store kiosk. Within 10 minutes, the order is prepared by a line chef and deposited in a glass cubby. The customer’s name appears on a digital screen above the cubby, where they can collect the meal. The restaurant has continued to have success as pandemic restrictions have eased, and is planning to expand into surrounding areas.
No-contact transactions have also been catching on in the grocery channel.
For instance, a ShopRite in New Rochelle, NY, has been utilizing a completely contactless “pod” to facilitate grocery pickup at any hour. Customers can place orders and then pick up their groceries in a tote at a secure, free-standing pod outside of the store.
Albertsons is testing a temperature-controlled locker program at some of its banners that will expand the ways customers can get their orders in a contactless manner.
- I just watched a controversial Starbucks idea in action. It put me off coffee – ZDnet
- How One Fully Automated Restaurant Continues to Thrive – QSR Magazine
- ShopRite Unveils QuickCollect GO! POD Smart Grocery Pickup at the ShopRite of New Rochelle – ShopRite
- Future of coffee ordering? Testing Starbucks’ new pickup-only store in New York City – GeekWire
- Albertsons offers a new refrigerated take on store pickup – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think Starbucks and other QSRs should provide pickup-only locations that offer customers contact-free service? What do you make of the barista reaction that the job would be a “dream” because of not having to deal with bad customers?