Boston Startup Offers New Take on Online Grocery Shopping

Is pickup the answer to delivery?

BOSTON -- Amazon caused a stir in the retail world when it announced plans for Amazon Go, a grocery store with no lines and no checkout. But what if shoppers never had to walk into the grocery store in the first place?

Convenience stores could one day double as fully stocked grocery stores through such a system, which is being developed at Takeoff Technologies. The Boston-area startup recently announced plans for an app-based system that allows customers to order groceries that can be ready for pickup in as few as 30 minutes, regardless of the size of the order. Customers could hypothetically place an order before they leave work and pick up the groceries on the way home without leaving their car, according to technology news site BostInno.

Takeoff Technologies developed plans for a tiny warehouse setup that can be attached to the back of a convenience store or pharmacy. The system requires 12 full-time employees, and the warehouse footprint is 15 times smaller than that of the average supermarket. These cost-saving measures allow Takeoff to offer the pickup service without charging customers any extra fees.

Max Pedró, José Vicente Aguerrevere and Rafael Pieretti. Photo by Bostinno's Dylan Martin.Once orders are placed, robots grab bins stacked in the warehouse and place them on a conveyor belt so employees can sort through the groceries, pick orders and bag them for each customer. The customer then parks by the distribution center, notifies the warehouse of their arrival with a tap of their phone and opens their trunk for an employee to place their groceries.

While Takeoff Technologies hasn’t figured out how to offer custom-cut deli meat from its mini warehouses just yet, the system is capable of storing fresh produce, packaged goods, office supplies and pharmacy items.

The startup plans to sell its model to existing retailers instead of launching its own grocery chain. For now, Takeoff Technologies plans to open five sites between three retail partners this year. Each warehouse could potentially include items from multiple retailers, varying the selection.

Pictured inset: Max Pedró, José Vicente Aguerrevere and Rafael Pieretti. Photo by BostInno's Dylan Martin.

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