Contactless, automated retailing received a huge boost with the coronavirus pandemic as the technology helps meet customer preferences for safe transaction platforms. Serendipitously, Aramark debuted its QuickEats Close Convenience retail platform at the Nineteen01 luxury apartment complex in Santa Ana in Southern California around the same time COVID concerns were forcing closures and restrictions on traditional retail outlets.
The store, which uses computer vision cameras and sensors to create a fully automated, frictionless, self-guided shopping experience, was a groundbreaking foray into sophisticated automated retailing and for that has been named recipient of the 2020 FM Best Concept Award in the Best Convenience Retailing Concept category.
To use the store, shoppers simply download the QuickEats Close Convenience app, scan it at the venue entrance and then enter and conduct their shopping. Items are added to the app's shopping cart as the customer goes through the store, picking items to purchase. When they finish, they simply exit the store and are charged the total amount of what they left with to their digital wallet and receive an emailed receipt. Because there are no checkout lines or even automated payment terminals, the entire experience is almost totally contactless, a significant factor for attracting customers in the post-COVID environment.
"We first launched QuickEats in March for our tenants at Nineteen01, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive," says General Partner Jim McKenzie of Greenwood & McKenzie, the concern that owns Nineteen01. "Our tenants were able to social distance while buying necessities without having to leave the property."
The store retails a variety of fresh and specialty items, including premium juices, coconut water, grab-and-go sandwiches, cheese plates and fruit, along with household items like cleaning products, toilet paper, dog food and other goods. The product mix allows tenants to purchase needed items quickly, safely and conveniently without leaving the building.
Photo: The QuickEats Close Convenience store at the Nineteen01 apartment complex offers a variety of prepared and packaged foods as well as sundries like cleaning products and toilet paper.
To develop QuickEats, Aramark partnered with artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision firm AWM, employing its AWM Frictionless system, which uses deep-learning algorithms and high-definition cameras throughout the store to track traffic and detect when customers interact with products. The technology allows the consumer to be truly free to shop without constraints while the system monitors demand patterns to ensure stock aligns with what customers want.
"In today's environment, QuickEats Close Convenience offers customers a truly autonomous shopping experience that is safe, convenient and contactless, simply by downloading the app and swiping their smart phone," notes Gary Crompton, president of Aramark Business Dining, in announcing the system’s debut at Nineteen01. "We are excited to partner with Greenwood & McKenzie in delivering this innovative concept to their tenants and look forward to opening the store to the broader Santa Ana community."
To date, the Nineteen01 location remains the only operating unit of the program but an Aramark spokesperson says the company has received a lot of interest in the technology and is in discussions about potential deployment across various sectors.