Design Idea: Whole Foods Mashed Up With a News Stand

Whole Food Express

I literally have come up with thousands of design ideas on my own. Of course, I’ve never really explored these ideas on this site because, heck, I’d rather talk about other people’s designs more. One of my enormous number of personal mashup ideas extends into the grocery business. I am from Austin, Texas, the home of Whole Foods. This grocery chain has been a great inspiration of a commitment to the quality of food sold in their stores. It is also a cooperative business, and has great employee retention. I decided to buy stock in the company. As of recent, though, their stocks have taken a huge hit from less than stellar net gains. What could bring them back to monster-profits?

Long before their recent stock performance, I came up with a business concept between a corner news stand and a Whole Foods prepared fresh foods section. Here’s an opinion from a former site of mine that I feel still has a great deal of validity:

I’ve been thinking about Whole Foods a lot lately. There is a Whole Foods not too far from my work, and I constantly find myself going in there after work picking up food for that evening’s dinner. I also constantly find myself gravitating towards the refrigerated prepared foods section. I stand there, and debate for a minute, “ Should I spend 40 dollars on organic groceries, so I can spend the evening slaving away over the stove, or should I just spend 20 dollars so I can just eat a really good meal that I can just heat up?”. After a long day at work, the answer is almost always: buy prepared foods, and save!

And who wouldn’t be tempted to buy the prepared foods. This section of the store is like a magazine rack prominently located at the front of the store. It also seems to be, by far, the most popular area of the store as the magazine rack is in Borders. And just like the magazine section, it’s filled with a great number of flashy, novel items that catch the eye, are easy to consume, and don’t cost a whole lot. But if I followed the analogy of the where the prepared foods section in Whole Foods is like the magazine Section in Borders, then what would be the news stand? What would be the food equivalent of a news stand where you could just get that magazine or newspaper and go? There really is nothing like this that I can think of.

So what exactly am I talking about? I’m suggesting there is a new and untapped way to distribute great meals using the news stand model of distribution. That is, take just the most popular part of the store and move it to the very front of the store. In fact, don’t even have a store at all. Just open up a wide door on a storefront and do your business right on the sidewalk or, as in suburbia, do your business through a car window. The place that you would buy the meal would be nothing more than one long refrigerated “news rack” where food from a central kitchen is prepared and packaged. I think the only popular franchise that would be comparable is Papa John’s Pizza, except the meals would be of a greater variety and nutrition. In fact, this might even become a popular extension of the Whole Foods Brand; a kind of Whole Foods Express!

What are the problems with this model? I have no idea. I don’t know enough about food distribution and preparation costs, but if you have a strong brand and a strong concept, I think it could succeed. People would just get it. The concept is simple, “OK, so I just drive up or walk up to the food stand and nab my easily prepared food which I cook at home as if it were home cooking.” . The major trepidation I have about seeing this model of food delivery is that it is very similar to what Briazz has done with their sandwich/variety foods shops. There are major differences between this model and Briazz, though.For instance:

  • All labor except for one person is located off site at the food preparation site.
  • The footprint where the food is sold is extremely small, thus leasing space is much cheaper.
  • Briazz prepared food on site in a very labor intensive manner.
  • Briazz didn’t seem to capture any evening or dinner business at all. They are just burning cash every minute after 1pm. The food stand would be about great prepared foods for dinner crowds bringing the food home. Maybe special bags or boxes would allow for the easy transport. Maybe there really isn’t a market for dinner on the go, but there also does not seem to be much competition either.”

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