One Grocery Store in Bay Area Offers Holiday Shopping Reservations

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With the holiday season closing in, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco uses reservations as a new strategy to bring more customers inside their store. Last Saturday, the Missio District shop proposed their after-hours shopping service by letting 30-35 buyers in the store. According to Rainbow Grocery’s marketing coordinator Cody Frost, the new tactic serves several purposes, such as providing shoppers quieter and less hectic shopping experience and prevent the increase of coronavirus cases within San Francisco.

The strategy’s first implementation was successful, encouraging the store to open again after typical business hours on Saturdays to those who secured reservations. Interested customers can sign up for reservations through the grocery store’s official website. The hour-long spots begin at 9 p.m., and the store scheduled additional reserved shopping days from November 21 to 25. Due to the organized arrangement, the slots for shopping in the store through reservations fill up quickly. As the end-of-year holidays are fast approaching, Rainbow Grocery also considers doing the same policy by December.

Due to the pandemic, many food markets offer different methods to assist their shoppers for comfortable shopping, such as curbside pickup, delivery, early shopping hours for vulnerable individuals, and expanding sales of holiday products to handle crowds more effectively. However, providing reservations is uncommon to many grocers. 

GlobalData Retail managing director Neil Saunders agrees with this method’s oddity. According to her, making reservations in grocery stores doesn’t get adopted yet as a new shopping practice. Shopkeepers who employ such techniques do so outside the grocery space usually. Examples include shopping for fashion or homeware items, where customers might need assistance from the employees.

Saunders also added that making trips to buy groceries often goes unplanned my a majority of shoppers. People anticipate the opening of stores and go in and out of the premises with ease. The previously mentioned reasons could cause people to hesitate to sign up for appointment-only shopping, even during the holiday season. However, Rainbow’s approach to proposing reserved shopping time after standard business hours changes none of the customers’ usual shopping experiences. According to Saunders, the strategy allows them to offer regular shopping hours to customers and reserved buying time for more cautious buyers who want to roam around the shop with lesser people.

However, some corporations may not find reserved shopping as an advantageous marketing move. Additional expenses for pulling off after-hours shopping and staffing insufficiency could expose more risks of bankruptcy and exposure to COVID-19. Rainbow Grocery depends on employees who volunteer to work as staff for the reserved shopping period due to these issues.

As much as how Rainbow Grocery appears as the pioneer for this method, multiple food stores also offered reserved shopping in the past but achieved mixed outcomes. During mid-March of this year, the online reservations company OpenTable authorized merchandisers to sign up for the reservations feature. Restaurant and butcher shop Oakland’s Belcampo and S.F.’s artisenal good shop The Epicurean Trader signed up for the offer.

Epicurean Trader co-owner Matt Pond admitted that they felt a lot of worry and frenzy towards grocery shopping during the pandemic, but OpenTable’s reservations feature helped bring customers. However, Pond also stated that the option is not something valuable or used frequently. With the holidays drawing nearer, Pond expressed his intent to keep the free OpenTable Service in hopes of bringing in more shoppers. According to him, reservations are more useful in busy times such as the holiday season, as many would attempt to shop for products more peacefully and safely.

Rainbow has not provided a curbside pickup option for their customers yet, but they are considering to do so once December comes in. Frost’s only request is for people to make one trip to the shop to buy what they need instead of coming back in several times.