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Amazon Go is the Future of Cafeterias, Not Grocery Stores

amazon-goAmazon’s taken the idea of automated self-checkouts to the next level.

Amazon’s new bricks-and-mortar grocery store doesn’t have at least one thing that supermarkets have – queues at the checkout counter. The online shopping giant’s new 1,800-square-foot convenience store, Amazon Go, in Seattle uses sensors to detect what shoppers have picked off the shelf and bills it to their Amazon account if they don’t put it back.

Amazon Go, currently available only for its employees, is expected to be publicly available early next year, the company said on Monday. Apart from groceries such as bread and milk, the store also offers ready-to-eat breakfasts, lunches and dinners made fresh by on-site chefs and local kitchens and bakeries, Amazon said.

Everyone is calling this a grocery store, but in its current form it is more of a new concept for a cafeteria or an automat. It’s not just that the location is small, but also that the selection is limited to snacks prepared on-site, basic groceries,  ready-to-eat meals, and Amazon Meal Kits.

This is not going to have Krogers quaking in their boots, although it might give convenience store chains like United Dairy Farmers sleepless nights.

The demo store just doesn’t carry enough items compared to the average grocery store, much less supermarkets, and furthermore, this concept is going to run into problems when introduced to a population which might not own smartphones.

This idea isn’t going to work for convenience stores, much lesss supermarkets. No, the only companies who should be concerned about Amazon Go (in its current form) are ones in the food service industry.

Once Amazon works the bugs out, this would be a great way to run a college cafeteria. Amazon’s system would require a greater upfront capital investment but the automation would also reduce the operating costs.

This idea won’t work with the general population because you can’t assume that all customers have the requisite app, but if an Amazon Go replaced a college cafeteria then it would be safe to assume that all of the college students would have the app.

Many schools require a student ID for the student meal plan, and if they cut a deal with Amazon then they would require that students use Amazon’s app (or perhaps they’d put an RFID chip in the student ID).

That is the perfect market for Amazon Go, and it would also have the added benefit of tying college students to Amazon in even greater numbers.

Amazon currently operates or plans to open nineteen pick up locations on and near college campuses. How much do you want to bet that those locations will soon be complimented by Amazon Go stores?


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Syn December 5, 2016 um 12:54 pm

This would be awesome for a large grocery store. No lines, just me running around, filling up my cart and wheeling straight to the car like I stole something. No more long lines, no broken checkouts, I see big potential bit it would end a lot of cashier jobs. So much for thinking working retail is safe from automation.

Great idea for consumers, not so much for workers.

Nate Hoffelder December 5, 2016 um 7:47 pm

I have worked that kind of shit retail job. Getting rid of those positions is not a big loss.

Frank December 5, 2016 um 3:32 pm

Since the first Amazon Go store is limited to Amazon employees, I can guarantee that all those people have a smartphone and Amazon account to pay for stuff.

I don’t know what Amazon is going to do when it opens to the public where some people that don’t have phones or even if they have a phone do they also need to have an Amazon account.

Syn December 5, 2016 um 4:22 pm

They could make it like a costco where you need to show id (proving you have membership) into the store. But instead of membership, you prove you have a Prime membership which will naturally have a card attached to it. I could see maybe an app that shows you everything in your cart along with prices. How else will they managed things that have been marked down that haven’t showed up in the system etc.

I find it interesting watching Amazon continue to build infrastructure while every one else does just enough. They worry about profits today while Amazon seems to worry about them tomorrow. My Walmart still doesn’t do Apple or Android pay.

Next thing you know, Amazon will move next door to Walmart and Walmart will cry like their a mom and pop shop and the evil Amazon is killing their business.

Nate Hoffelder December 5, 2016 um 7:20 pm

I certainly don’t carry my smartphone with me always. I’d love to see how Amazon copes with that.

BDR December 5, 2016 um 6:21 pm

Now THAT is a great idea but it’s likely to never be quite as smooth a process as they depict. What happens, for instance, if you overdraw your account? Do they send the robots after you? Killer drones?

Then there’s the whole selection thing. Take a look at the lack of choices that Bezos offers his Kindle e-reader customers when it comes to typography and picture that being transferred to food variety. You can get any kind of cupcake that you want, as long as it’s chocolate with white icing and has no nuts in it. Want something else? Bezos says no! You’ll eat what they have and you will like it.

Uh, yeah. No thanks.

Chris Meadows December 5, 2016 um 8:15 pm

As I mention on TeleRead, I think you’re thinking too small. With the $15 minimum wage bump in California (and, presumably, soon elsewhere), businesses are looking into increasing automation so they can dump low-paid peons and remain profitable. McDonald’s is rolling out self-service touchscreen kiosks nationwide.

And here comes Amazon with a self-checkout system that no longer expects customers to struggle with a confusing self-checkout station? The timing doesn’t exactly seem coincidental. If ordinary shoppers can’t use the smartphone app, surely they could use a RFID-equipped "loyalty card" as easily as a college student might use a RFID-equipped college ID.

Chris Meadows December 5, 2016 um 8:16 pm

If you overdraw your account, presumably your ID swipe stops letting you into the store until you fix it.

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