Food News

Amazon Is Planning Drive-Through Grocery Concept; Could It Dethrone Publix in Florida?

Online giant has grown exponentially from its 1995 inception two decades ago. The company, best-known for its online sales of books, office supplies, and nearly everything else, is expanding into many other avenues.

Just last week, Amazon announced the expansion of its Home Services division to 15 major U.S. cities, including Miami, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. The service allows homeowners to shop for and order services as easily as they would a laptop, online. Services range from TV wall mounting to showerhead replacement, and customers can request a free quote for just about any home repair or service.  

Now, Amazon has plans to introduce a drive-up grocery store, where consumers can order their goods online and pick up their order — much like calling ahead for your evening pizza.  According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the first such store would be located in Sunnyvale, California, where a local real estate developer has recently submitted plans for an 11,600-square-foot building thought to be the online seller's flagship grocery store.

Amazon already has an Amazon Fresh service that delivers groceries. The service, currently available in New York, Philadelphia, the Pacific Northwest, and parts of California, allows current Amazon Prime members to order items online and have them delivered to their doorsteps. Customers can even choose delivery times, so orders placed in the daytime be delivered once you get home from work. An Amazon drive-through fulfillment center would likely be used as an enhancement to this current service. We have reached out to Amazon for comment but have not received a reply.

More interesting, however, than Amazon drive-through grocery stores is how they would impact current supermarket chains that rely on the increasingly antiquated models of having people drive to a store, shop, and schlep their purchases home with them.

The South Florida Business Journal speculates that if Amazon's drive-through grocery chain ever makes it to Florida, it could hurt Publix. The Lakeland-based supermarket uses online and advance ordering predominantly for catering and bakery items. Most recently, Publix has gone so far as to enable busy individuals to order the store's coveted deli sandwiches online or by phone for quick pickup. But with stores like Whole Foods Market heartily embracing Instacart and other online concierge shopping services turning up almost daily, Publix's unwillingness to join the 21st Century could prove its demise. 

Of course, there is something to be said for going to a store to speak with the butcher or smell the fresh peaches. With all the advanced technology and increasing automation that leaves us little or no opportunity to connect with other humans, it seems Publix, with its homey commercials that tout the pleasures of shopping, might just be the last bastion of person-to-person contact. Besides — you can't thump a melon through a computer.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times, covering the restaurant and bar scene in South Florida. She has been featured on Cooking Channel’s Eat Street and Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. Doss won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature on what it’s like to wait tables. In a previous life, she appeared off-Broadway and shook many a cocktail as a bartender at venues in South Florida and New York City. When she’s not writing, you can find Doss running some marathon then celebrating at the nearest watering hole.
Contact: Laine Doss