- Smart & Final will implement a new line-queueing system at its stores before Memorial Day, according to an email sent to Grocery Dive. The goal is to provide customers with a more efficient, safer experience as they wait to check out.
- Rather than having individual lines at each check stand, customers will instead queue up in one line near the front of each store. There will be a swinging gate at the beginning of the line, which customers will wait behind until they are called forward.
- A digital screen will alert shoppers when a new register is open. The screen will display other messages as well, including reminders to maintain social distance.
While many grocers have put tape or signage on store floors to maintain social distancing and move aisle traffic in a single direction, shoppers are all too often ignoring or overlooking these requests.
A system that organizes the line-up process with digital screens and physical gates provides more explicit direction to customers without requiring employees to actively manage the process. Using technology like Smart & Final's queueing system also promises to save grocers on additional labor at a time when many have had to rapidly staff up their stores.
Smart & Final’s initiative comes a few weeks after Kroger first announced plans to use technology to limit customer traffic. Kroger, which utilizes its Queuevision technology to keep store capacity under 50%, was among the first to chains to monitor the number of shoppers entering and exiting stores. In Madison, Wisconsin, local grocer Metcalfe’s Market has also teamed up with a tech company to use floor sensors and app alerts for employees to manage customer flow in stores.
Across the U.S., the coronavirus has inspired new technologies and innovations in grocery stores. In South Carolina, two students at Clemson University have invented a box equipped with UVC light that can be placed at a checkstand and used to scan groceries and kill potential germs and viruses.
Grocers like Fairway Market, Sam’s Club and H-E-B are also promoting mobile checkout options amid the pandemic in order to speed up the checkout process and keep people moving through stores.
To make the checkout process even safer, Smart & Final has also staggered its checkout line, installed sneeze guards and added social distancing decals. It has limited store capacity to five customers per 1,000 square feet and is not allowing shoppers to enter in a group of more than two.