I tried Walmart’s grocery pickup and now I’m never going back to shopping in store

Walmart grocery pickup
  • I started using Walmart’s grocery pickup service last summer.
  • I order through Walmart’s app and pickup groceries at my nearest location.
  • It’s my preferred way to shop now, and I have no plans to stop using it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Curbside pickup got a major boost because of the pandemic as customers avoided going into stores.

walmart black friday
A Walmart on Black Friday.

Experts predict that the shift to online grocery delivery will continue even as the pandemic subsides, and COVID-19 advanced the industry several years.

Walmart grocery pickup
eople talk outside a Wal-Mart Pickup-Grocery test store in Bentonville, Arkansas, June 4, 2015.

Source: Insider

I’ve been doing curbside pickup at Walmart since the summer using Walmart’s app. Here’s what it’s like.

Walmart Grocery pickup app

When you open the app, it prompts you to choose your nearest location for pickup, or add your address for delivery.

Walmart Grocery pickup app

The time slots come in hour-long blocks. At the beginning of the pandemic it was hard to find a spot, but now I rarely need to book more than a day or two in advance to get my choice of time.

Walmart Grocery pickup app

Once you’ve selected a time, create your list. The app is organized into sections that change seasonally, like spring produce, but you can also search for items or look through past orders.

Walmart grocery pickup

See what’s available, and get suggestions for similar items to picks that are out of stock. Just add enough items to hit the $35 minimum and pickup is free.

Walmart grocery pickup

Once your order is created, you have until about midnight the night before to continue adding to your list. For me, this is one of the most useful features, because I almost always realize we need something else before it’s actually time to pick up groceries.

Walmart grocery pickup

A few hours before pickup, Walmart will send a text notifying you about any substitutions or weight adjustments on produce.

Walmart grocery pickup app

I’ve always had good experiences with substitutions that are nearly identical to what I ordered, at the same cost.

Walmart grocery pickup app

Once you accept or reject any substitutions, the shoppers start preparing your order.

Walmart grocery pickup app

You’ll also get a text letting you know your order is ready for pickup.

Walmart Grocery pickup

Check-in on the app when you leave home so Walmart has an estimate of when you’ll arrive.

Walmart grocery pickup app

A side area of the parking lot was marked for grocery pickup. When you pull into a spot the app knows you’ve arrived and prompts you to enter your spot number and color of your car.

Walmart grocery pickup

My Walmart has about ten pickup spots. I’ve occasionally had to wait, but the process usually moves quickly.

Walmart grocery pickup

Walmart shoppers use small carts to pull crates with grocery orders.

Walmart grocery pickup

Masked shoppers come up to the driver’s window to double-check the name on the order with a handheld tablet that they carry.

Walmart grocery pickup

Then, groceries get loaded into the trunk.

Walmart grocery pickup

Shoppers will usually bag groceries in your reusable bags if you bring them, but I usually just ask them to load groceries into my trunk to save time and bag them myself at home.

Walmart grocery pickup

Sometimes they are more organized in my trunk, but as long as eggs and anything else with the potential to get crushed is supported, I’m happy. I’ve never had any issues with this.

Walmart grocery pickup

At first, I was unsure about using a grocery pickup service, but now I’m never going back. I love the convenience, especially because I can add things to my order over several days and have them all ready and waiting for me.

Walmart employee curbside pickup

I also find I avoid overspending on impulse purchases because I’m browsing aisles where I don’t need anything, and I avoid purchasing too much of staples because I can look at my pantry as I shop.

grocery list

I see why online grocery orders have exploded over the last year, and I have no plans to go back to shopping in-store on a regular basis.

Walmart grocery pickup

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Taco Bell is adding 1,000 drive-thru ‘bellhops’ as chain tweaks traditional and Cantina stores for a post pandemic world

Taco Bell Cantina
A Taco Bell Cantina, which typically is focused on dine-in service, has added a drive-thru.

  • Three Taco Bell stores have been modified into the chain’s new small-format Go Mobile design.
  • The chain says 1,000 ‘bellhops’ with iPads will take orders at drive-thru lanes throughout the US.
  • A Cantina store, originally geared for dine-in, has added a drive-thru lane due to the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than a year after proposing a plan to roll out dine-in-focused lifestyle stores, Taco Bell is tweaking its store development plans.

The Irvine, California-based fast-food chain said Tuesday that its next 1,000 restaurants will be modernized with features that reflect growing consumer demand for convenient, contactless ordering, a trend accelerated during the pandemic. New format stores will feature order-taking bellhops at the drive-thru and kiosk-only ordering. Modifications are also being made to the chain’s dine-in-focused Cantina concept.

Some of these changes were introduced last summer when Taco Bell introduced its new “Go Mobile” restaurant format with dual drive-thru lanes. One lane would be dedicated to traditional drive-thru orders, while the other would be designed for the pickup of mobile orders – similar to Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Chipotlanes.

On Tuesday, the chain said those plans are starting to gel.

Three stores in Texas and Oklahoma have been modified to adopt the Go Mobile format, while a Taco Bell Cantina in Northern California has added a drive-thru lane. The latter represents a significant about-face for the Cantina concept, originally developed to accommodate dine-in traffic in densely populated urban cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, London, and New York.

Read more: How Taco Bell, Burger King, and Chipotle are pushing diners away from DoorDash and Uber Eats and reclaiming customer data

But, the Yum Brands division said Tuesday that the “prioritization of drive-thru service during the pandemic” triggered the adoption of a drive-thru at the Cantina concept in Danville, California. The experiential concept still features dine-in elements such as an outdoor fire pit, a game area, and a full bar which will serve diners when it is safe to do so, the chain said.

Mike Grams, Taco Bell’s global chief operating officer, said the chain’s restaurant portfolio is rapidly evolving as it strikes “a crucial balance between being technology-forward and social-oriented.”

“Even amid the challenging pandemic, we are continuing to grow due in large part to the strength in our franchise partnerships as well as the flexible formats we offer,” Grams said in a statement.

The chain said it will continue to build destination Cantina restaurants, but at the same time, it will prioritize growing restaurants that “maximize efficiency for on-the-go customers” like the Go Mobile restaurants.

Before the pandemic, 3% of Taco Bell sales came from digital orders. Now, that number has surged to about 20%. That’s forced the chain to rethink store designs.

Taco Bell Go Mobile
Three Taco Bells in Oklahoma and Texas have added dual drive-thru lanes as part of the new Go Mobile format.

The chain, which has about 7,400 locations, plans to remodel or build an additional 30 stores into the Go Mobile model by the end of the year. New stores will have smaller dining rooms and be about 1,325 square feet. That’s more than 1,000-square feet smaller than a standard Taco Bell restaurant.

Read more: Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol on fight for profits between the chain and delivery operators like DoorDash: ‘Our margins are just as important as their margins.’

A key feature of the Go Mobile concept, order-taking bellhops at the drive-thru, will also be extended to traditional stores to help improve drive-thru wait times, the chain said.

Consumers will start to see about 1,000 of these “concierge service of team members” taking orders with iPads at restaurants across the US by the summer. Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger also station employees at the drive-thru to take orders with tablets.

Taco Bell said it is also opening a “kiosk-focused” restaurant in Manhattan that is designed for a completely digital in-person experience. The chain did not provide further details.

Also coming soon is a new format store by Taco Bell franchisee Lee Engler, CEO of Border Foods. He plans to unveil “an industry-defying restaurant” in the coming months, Taco Bell said.

Taco Bell and Engler did not provide any further details, only stating that the new concept is expected to address the bottleneck at drive-thru windows.

“As great as the drive-thru is, a fundamental flaw is bottleneck at the windows,” Engler said in a statement. “Our team has set out to creatively solve for that like no one else has done before, and we’re thrilled by positive early responses to our one-of-a-kind concept coming to Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.”

According to Thrillist, city documents reveal that Taco Bell is looking to build an experimental store with a “windowless building design that will cater only to takeout orders” from four drive-thru lanes fulfilling orders from two separate kitchens.

Data shows that Taco Bell’s focus on digital takeout solutions is a smart move.

According to a J.D. Power Pulse Survey conducted in January of 2021, retail and restaurant consumers are still gravitating towards curbside and home delivery even as business restrictions ease across the US. Half of the consumers surveyed said they plan to continue using curbside pickup and home delivery services. And, 21% said they expected “to actually increase their use of these services,” the survey states.

While demand for delivery rose substantially during the pandemic, takeout and drive-thru orders are the busiest channels for fast-food chains. According to recent data by The NPD Group, carryout represented 45.8% of total orders. Drive-thru is 43.5% and delivery is 10.7%.

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