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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How to place an Uber Eats group order and let everyone pick out their own order for a single delivery

Group ordering food on phone
Uber Eats group orders can save you from sharing your phone.

  • Uber Eats’ group order feature lets different users add items to a single order, and have it delivered to a single location.
  • Every person who wants to add items to a Group Order needs to have an Uber Eats account.
  • You can place a group order through the Uber Eats mobile app or the desktop website. 
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Whether it’s getting food from your favorite local restaurant or getting groceries from the store, mobile applications like Uber Eats have been in high demand recently. And for the times you’re not eating alone, splitting the check can be relatively easy with Uber Eats’ group ordering tool. 

The feature lets you send a link to everyone in your party, allowing them to add their order using their own devices. The order can then be paid for by one person, and sent to a single address.

It’s great if you don’t want to pass your phone around to everyone in the room. Just note that everyone involved will need to have their own Uber Eats account.

Here’s how to place a group order on the Uber Eats mobile app and online. 

How to place an Uber Eats group order on the mobile app

1. Open the Uber Eats app.

2. Select a restaurant using the app’s Home dashboard or the search tool. 

3. Once you’ve decided on a restaurant, click the group order button in the top-right hand corner.

A silhouette of a person represents the group order icon.

4. Determine your delivery address and order spending limit. Then tap “Share group order.” 

A spending limit will prevent you from being charged beyond a specific amount.

5. A window will appear with mobile sharing options. Share the group order link via text, social media, or email with each member of your group. 

6. After all orders have been submitted, tap “View cart.” 

7. Next, select “Go to checkout.”

Uber Eats Group Order 4
Go to checkout on your Uber Eats order, but only after everyone has finished adding their items.

8. Uber Eats will then ask you to confirm everyone has submitted their order. Choose “Continue” when you’re ready. 

Uber Eats Group Order 5
Ensure everyone has added their items to the cart before locking in your Uber Eats order.

9. After verifying the items and price, hit “Next.”

Uber Eats Group Order 6
Check your payment method before placing your Uber Eats group order.

10. You’ll be asked to select a tip amount, and how you want to pay. Once you’re ready, tap “Place order.” 

How to place an Uber Eats group order through the website

1. Go to Uber Eats on your favorite browser and log in. 

2. Select a restaurant using the app’s Home dashboard or the search tool. 

Uber Eats Group Order 7
The search bars on the app and website are in different places.

3. Choose the restaurant you want to order from. 

4. In the restaurant’s banner image, click the “Start group order” icon. 

Uber Eats Group Order 8
This icon is located above the restaurant description on the far-right.

5. Use the “Edit” buttons to adjust your spending limit or delivery address. 

6. Click “Create order.” 

7. A box will appear with a link. Share it via text, social media, or email with each member of your group. Share the link to allow others to add to the Group Order. 

8. After all orders have been submitted, you can begin checkout and place your order. Just remember that once you head to checkout, you can’t edit the group order without starting from scratch.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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What is ChowNow? How the food-ordering service differs from its competition

Food delivery online
ChowNow charges restaurants a monthly fee without a commission on orders.

  • ChowNow is a food-ordering app and subscription service for restaurants that doesn’t receive a commission on orders like other popular delivery apps.
  • Restaurants that pay for the monthly service get the benefits of being on a delivery app, plus a dedicated marketing team to set up an app and website, among other features.
  • For customers, the ChowNow app is similar to ordering apps from services like UberEats or GrubHub.
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Food delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash seem nearly ubiquitous in the restaurant industry – if you’re running a restaurant and you want people in the area to know about you, getting on at least one of these apps is essential for your exposure.

These apps, however, take a cut of what restaurants earn – even if you order pickup and not delivery. Most of them take 20% to 40% of each order, which is, in many cases, nearly the entire profit margin on the food they’re selling.

The people behind ChowNow saw this trend and worried that it would take down the small, local restaurant as we know it, and decided to do something about it. ChowNow is a service that sets up food delivery for restaurants on its own app (available on Android and iOS), like other food delivery service apps. However, the company doesn’t charge a percentage for it.

What to know about ChowNow

Unlike UberEats or DoorDash, ChowNow doesn’t stop after putting a restaurant on its app. It does more – it helps make it easy for a restaurant to have its own ordering app, and an easy-to-use order function on its website.

Instead of taking a percentage of each order, ChowNow structured its service as a paid monthly subscription – the base cost is $149 a month, with a one-time $399 setup fee per location, but these prices go down when a business signs a contract for a longer period. Its annual plan is $119 a month with a $199 initial setup fee, and the two-year annual plan is $99 a month, with the same discounted setup fee.

On top of helping a restaurant set up its own ordering app and website, ChowNow also offers a wide range of other services to customers, including comprehensive training, an iPad for order consolidation, an ongoing marketing strategy, and 24/7 support.

What is Chownow   1
A comprehensive overview of all the services that come with a ChowNow plan.

One thing to note about ChowNow is that it is not actually a delivery service. ChowNow does not employ its own delivery drivers – it is, more or less, a marketing team and middle man. Instead, the company gives restaurants the option to hire and use their own delivery drivers for orders that go through the site. 

If restaurants don’t want to hire delivery drivers, though, they’re not out of luck – ChowNow has partnerships with some of the delivery services they are competing with, including Postmates, DoorDash, UberEats, in different areas. ChowNow isn’t trying to drive these companies out of business – just reimagine how they function so the process works for everyone.

ChowNow can help customers, too

As a customer, using ChowNow doesn’t have to be that different than using other ordering apps. It works more or less the same, but when you use it instead of one of the other apps, you’re doing your part to help local restaurants keep more of what they earn.

When you download the ChowNow app, it looks a lot like any other ordering app you may be familiar with. You enter your location, and it shows you a list of available restaurants in your area, and you can tap on them to see their menu. From there, you just add items to your cart, check out, and wait. 

What is ChowNow 2
Despite ChowNow fees being different from other ordering apps, its interface is similar to the apps from other food-ordering services.

If that’s all you use ChowNow for, then you’re still helping your local small businesses – plus, you might be helping yourself out, too. Because of the high commissions on apps like GrubHub and Postmates, many restaurants increase their prices on the app in order to compensate for what would otherwise be a net loss. So when you use an app that charges restaurants a fee, you could end up paying more for your food than you need to. 

However, customers can also look at the ChowNow app as a map to new restaurants – ideally, they would try a restaurant once, and, if they decide they really like it, simply go and download that restaurant’s app, rather than adding it to a list of favorites. This puts customers in a position to get bonuses and deals that the company may be offering.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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