Could grocers and fast food restaurants join forces for online ordering?


In a move to provide enhanced convenience to shoppers, Takeoff Technologies, a retailer of automated micro-fulfillment technology, is collaborating with a top retailer on a project to merge online grocery service with fast food delivery. Curt Avallone, Takeoff’s Chief Business Officer, explained that under the arrangement, shoppers will be able to place an order for groceries from a supermarket run by the retailer and simultaneously order food from a nearby McDonald’s restaurant in one single transaction, with the items being delivered together. The retailer, which is a multibillion-dollar company, will utilize a micro-fulfillment center, situated on the same site as one of its supermarkets, to assemble grocery orders and ship them to McDonald’s in a truck, where they will be put in a locker alongside items from the restaurant. The items will then be picked up by drivers from companies like Uber and delivered to the customer.

Takeoff will supply the lockers, which it is acquiring from refrigeration equipment provider Hussmann. The two companies started a strategic alliance in 2021 to develop solutions for retailers. “It’s always been part of our plan to build MFCs that then create new competitive advantages,” Avallone said.

The grocery store and McDonald’s are in close proximity, enabling groceries to be assembled by the MFC and transported to the locker within 30 minutes. Takeoff anticipates that the joint grocery- and fast food-delivery service will commence operations later in 2023.

Delivery provider DoorDash began offering a service in 2021 that enables customers to combine orders across restaurant, grocery and other retail providers. However, the ability to merge grocery with restaurant orders for delivery is not entirely new. Avallone believes that the concept Takeoff is working on will provide opportunities for grocery stores and quick-service restaurants to drive sales for each other, while distributing the costs of providing quick service to shoppers. For instance, retailers could offer incentives to customers to add groceries to a fast-food meal by giving away a free sundae.

Avallone acknowledged that there will be limitations on which items grocery shoppers can get in conjunction with a fast-food meal. “If the brand partnership was Domino’s, they wouldn’t want the grocer to give away free pizza as an incentive, but if it was a Chinese restaurant, they might not mind,” he said.

Takeoff has been taking measures to attract grocers to its technology, which, like systems from other automation suppliers, is intended to help grocers fill orders faster than human workers can handle them. Avallone explained that the company recognizes that grocers have been preoccupied with the pandemic and, more recently, powerful inflation, and is taking steps to demonstrate how MFCs can provide value to retailers by helping them serve customers more quickly and efficiently. The company, which has raised about $200 million from investors and has sold 120 MFCs to retailers, counts Albertsons, ShopRite, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Canadian grocery chain Loblaws and Australian retailer Woolworths among its clients. In January, Albertsons opened a Takeoff-supplied MFC at a Pavilions store in Laguna Niguel, California, the 10th automated site the grocer has deployed through its partnership with the automation company.

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