Kowalski's Market in Woodbury on Monday will add pickup service for its grab-and-go selections, becoming the first grocery in the country to use a mobile app called FlyBuy.
It will allow consumers to order breakfast, lunch or dinner items from Kowalski's deli, pay with a credit card and pick it up at the store in designated parking spots without getting out of their car.
"Once we get the order, we let the customer know by text how soon the order will be ready, like in 10 minutes, then they get a driving map to our store and we see a map of how close the customer is to arrival, like Uber," said Kowalski's Chief Operating Officer Kris Kowalski Christiansen. "After they drive up, they don't have to wait to pay and we run out to give them their order."
About 50 items from the Kowalski's deli are available to order on the app, including salads, wraps, sandwiches, sushi, fruit and cheese snack trays, rotisserie chicken and hot meals. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Kowalski Christiansen said the glorified drive-through is a natural extension of the grab-and-go segment of the store. Sales growth in the deli has risen from high single digits to high double digits.
FlyBuy Technologies Inc., based in Seattle, started its mobile drive-up app in restaurants, and has tested services in auto parts stores, dry cleaners, chocolate shops and nursery schools. "It's a way to have the kids ready to pick up at school so they don't have to stand out in the rain," said Wil Merritt, FlyBuy's chief executive.
The service is offered in more than 70 restaurants and coffee shops in Seattle, Portland and St. Louis.
Merritt, who grew up in the Twin Cities, chose Woodbury as a test market. "This is a service for people who spend a lot of time in their cars," he said. "Woodbury is a classic suburb with tech-savvy residents who drive a lot."
He approached Kowalski's to be FlyBuy's first supermarket because it's a "well-known, innovative, customer-focused brand that promotes their home delivery service."
FlyBuy doesn't have any direct competitors yet, Merritt said. McDonald's, Outback and California Pizza Kitchen have also experimented with curbside delivery but not using real-time pickup information.
With Amazon and Walmart rolling out curbside pickup services in their stores, Merritt said FlyBuy gives smaller businesses a chance to compete.
For economy of scale, he's also launching the app in other Woodbury businesses such as Pet Evolution, Wayback Burgers, Dino's Gyros and Angelina's Kitchen.
Whether the app is expanded to other areas of the Twin Cities depends on its success in Woodbury, Merritt said.
Consumers aren't subject to minimum orders or fees for the service and, unlike some online delivery programs, sale prices in the store are honored. FlyBuy gets paid via a small fee charged to the retailer on each order.
"It's a faster alternative to a typical fast-food drive-through," Merritt said. "And you don't have to strain to understand someone through bad speakers."