Drive-Through Grocery Stores?

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Some businesses let you order groceries online and then pick them up from nearby gas stations or delivery trucks the next day. Does that sound convenient, or weird?

The grocery store could soon be as obsolete as the video rental store.

Giant Foods is turning gas stations into grocery pickup locations, The Washington Post’s Thomas Heath says. You order online, pull up at the station, and an employee “deposits your order, from a loaf of bread to 50 bags of groceries, into the trunk.” It has 20 such grocery stations around Washington, D.C., right now.

It’s not the only business giving online groceries a try. Relay Foods has 35 locations in the D.C. area, with plans for up to 100, Heath says. “It has raised $14.5 million from venture capital firms, including investments from Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s investment vehicle, Tomorrow Ventures,” he says.

Time’s Brad Tuttle notes that a few other businesses are running pickup grocery operations in limited service areas, including Walmart and Safeway.

In general, customers need to order online the evening before they want their stuff. Same-day pickup may be available for an added fee. Groceries are shipped from central warehouses to a pickup location in trucks with refrigerated cases. Some businesses will have an employee load the groceries into your car, while others require you to come inside and pick them up.

Depending on the service, groceries are picked up at an actual grocery store, a converted gas station, or a designated mobile pickup location — the back of the truck carrying the groceries from the warehouse.

Tuttle identifies some concerns that have kept this kind of service from growing faster. People want to pick their own produce, for instance. They worry about freshness or goods being damaged in transit. Groceries already somehow get to grocery stores relatively fresh and unharmed, but this is new — it seems natural to worry.

Would you be interested in trying a grocery pickup service? Have you already used one? Let us know what you think on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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