How Instacart Plans to Solve Grocers' Foodservice Problems

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
How Instacart Plans to Solve Grocers' Foodservice Problems
Instacart has partnered with Publix on its first rollout of Instacart Meals.

A leader in online grocery delivery is launching a new capability that will allow shoppers to order prepared foods for delivery and pickup in-store.

Instacart says it has inked a deal with Publix Super Markets to introduce Instacart Meals: a new functionality that makes it easy for customers to order specialty counter items alongside their groceries and household essentials, all to be delivered or picked up from the store.

The partnership with Publix is Instacart's first foray into making made-to-order items such as sandwiches and other prepared foods available via delivery or pickup. This is an entirely new product functionality and user flow within the Instacart marketplace, allowing customers to add made-to-order meals to their regular grocery shop with new features.

“We’re excited to introduce Instacart Meals to customers nationwide. At less than half the price of an average fast-casual food order, made-to-order grocery meals offer busy people and families access to a fresh and more affordable option when life is hectic and dinner is now,” said Nilam Ganenthiran, president, Instacart. “Made-to-order food counters are among the fastest growing aisles in the grocery store — these items represent up to 15% of sales for our grocery partners and have among the highest margins of anything sold in-store. It’s critical that our grocery partners are able to capture these sales online with delivery and pickup — it’s a boost to their business and a key part of the shopping experience for customers.” 

As a first step, Instacart has collaborated with Publix to introduce the product with a new digital deli counter including its popular Publix subs. The product will roll out to Publix locations across Florida in the coming weeks and to nearly all Publix stores across the Southeast in the months ahead, following a Florida pilot. Instacart Meals will expand to additional retailers and made-to-order menu items throughout the coming year.

The new Instacart Meals product includes a number of innovative features designed for grocery, including: 

  • Digital Deli Counter - Just like shopping in-store, customers can design the perfect made-to-order meal using the “Build your Own” functionality within the online storefront. Extra Cheese? No Mayo? As part of the Publix rollout, customers can now build their own sub from endless configurable combinations by choosing from a variety of breads, meats, cheeses, veggies and condiments using a streamlined user interface.

  • Counter Integration - Instacart Meals plugs directly into a retail partner’s ordering system, allowing store employees to receive orders through an existing and familiar infrastructure and begin preparing right away. Instacart shoppers can then simply swing by the counter and pick up any items, driving down wait times in-store and making it easier for customers to get exactly what they want as part of their weekly shop.

  • Intuitive Timing - Instacart Meals works hand-in-hand with order management systems to generate precise preparation and counter pickup windows at the end of the Instacart shopper’s shopping route. This ensures that the customers’ sandwich and grocery essentials get from the store to their door as fresh as possible. 

  • Smart Cart Combos - When customers add a made-to-order meal to their cart, the Instacart Meals product automatically offers all applicable combo options and discounts, enabling customers to capitalize on deals and savings just as they would in-store. With the rollout, Publix’s signature sub combo is available online for the first time ever via Instacart, creating the ultimate ordering experience and offering customers one more way to take advantage of Publix’s great savings.

“At Publix, we’re always looking for ways to ensure our customers have the best experience possible, both in our stores and online. With Instacart, it’s easier than ever for our customers to get prepared subs fast — the way they want — delivered along with their grocery essentials,” said Maria Brous, Publix director of communications. “Our expanded collaboration also means that our customers will not have to wait in-line for our popular Publix subs. From delivery and pickup in as fast as two hours, to alcohol delivery and now, the deli and subs, we’ve brought our store online with Instacart and made it even easier for our customers to enjoy the food they love with friends and family —just in time for the big game.”

Instacart Meals comes on the heels of a number of recent Instacart product expansions designed to extend the aisles and options for busy people and families moving their weekly grocery shop online. The company recently announced an enhanced Instacart Pickup product as well as the continued expansion of its alcohol delivery offering. 

“Instacart Meals wasn’t a simple technical feat — the team built an entirely new set of features right into our existing app and folded minute-to-minute counter collection windows into our already complex fulfillment chain,” said Mark Schaaf, chief technology officer, Instacart. “All of these technologies work together, enabling customers to design their perfect made-to-order meal from millions of order combinations, all with the tap of a button.”

Instacart today partners with more than 350 national, regional and local retailers to offer delivery from more than 25,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in the U.S. and Canada. Instacart delivery is currently available to more than 85% of households in the U.S. and more than 70% of households in Canada. 

Publix operates more than 1,200 grocery stores in seven southeastern states in the Southeast. The Lakeland, Fla.-based company is No. 5 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.

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