Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Road To Hell's Kitchen Is Paved with Food Intentions

While waiting in line to buy T-day groceries, Ralph's was kind enough to entertain me with cooking show clips. Little LCD screens near the register present video shorts for news, weather, sports and recipes.

About those recipes. Isn't it a little late by then? I'm already standing in line. Am I really going to return to the produce department to pick up some fresh cilantro and veggies? And what's the likelihood that I have a pen to jot down the recipe? There's virtually no chance I'll remember the list of ingredients.

How 'bout if someone installs a recipe kiosk in grocery stores that's a win-win-win-win-win situation. That's a lot of wins.

Walk over to the kiosk and scan a few key ingredients. You might scan boneless chicken breasts and some mushrooms. The kiosk scans its database for recipes with these two ingredients and presents a list, grouped by type of cuisine. Do you feel like Mexican, Italian or maybe even Polish food tonight? Touch the screen to make your selection. You're now presented with a list of recipes that you can view on the screen. Once you find a dish that you like, press print.

Now the fun starts.

Of course, the kiosk prints a recipe for you, meaning you don't need pen and paper. You no longer have to wait 'til you get home and search for a recipe online only to discover you don't have all the ingredients. Plus you have the recipe while you're still shopping — not at the register. Not only do you have a shopping list, but the kiosk prints the aisle number and location where you can find the items in that store. That quick trip to the store on the way home won't nearly take so long since you're not aimlessly zigzagging the aisles looking for a specific item. (You can even imagine that some stores will have the items waiting for you at the register and the recipe lists a register number instead of aisle numbers.) Oh yeah. It's free for you. Sure sounds like you win.

What about the grocery store? It's quite likely that you'll buy most of the items on the list of ingredients because you want to make sure that you have them. That means some people will buy perishable products in duplicate. Plus the store found a way to have you spend more time walking the aisles, even if it's directed walking. The more items you see, chances are you'll buy more things. Sounds like the grocery store wins.

Then who pays the bills? Some small local company installs and operates the kiosks. The grocery store spends nothing to install nor operate the kiosk and only provides a small area of floor space rent-free. Ralph's already has scanners on the floor; so this concept isn't much of a leap.

No, really. Who pays the bills? The Food Network and food manufacturers.

When the kiosk searches for recipes, what cookbooks will it use? Of course, the kiosk only knows about Food Net shows. You can think about the kiosk as a Food Net Center. The Center will always show video clips from current TV shows. Think about the kiosk as a way to attract or retain viewers. What better way to advertise a new series? Oh, and about that printout? It also has an access key (number) so that when you go home you can download the video clip for the recipe you chose from the Food Net site directly to your video iPod. Put your iPod above the counter and hit play. Now you can cook as you watch. But there's more. That printout also has a coupon for the Food Net online cookbook from which your recipe came. Sounds like it's a winning marketing campaign to increase online activity for the Food Net.

But that's not all. What about the food manufacturers? How do they fit in? They pay for understated product placement. When the kiosk prints the list of ingredients, it always has the option to suggest a generic ingredient: 1 cup sour cream. But the kiosk also has the option to print: 1 cup Breakstone's Sour Cream. Or if Kraft is trying to push a particular variety, the kiosk can print: 1 cup Breakstone's Fat Free Sour Cream. Companies pay only for the number of times the item is printed and will bid for key ingredients — pie crusts, pie filling, spices, flavorings — during peak times, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The kiosk is essentially another marketing tool, instead of coupons, to drive consumer behavior and increase market share. And if that company really wants to control shoppers, the kiosk can print a coupon too. That's a strong one-two punch to introduce a new product to the marketplace.

When can I scan my chicken and mushrooms?


Anonymous said...

Great spot.
Just wanted to tell you that your dream of a recipe kiosk is actually someone elses reality. Giant foods currently has some sort of application that scans barcodes and then suggests recipes, or it also has a touch screen deal that you can browse with, then you can print them... the kiosk application actually suggests side dishes and tells you were you can find them in the store...
I guess the comapany that runs it is called Shop To Cook.... I heard that they are gonna be rolling out to more stores soon... With that said, you cant put a price on your(our) time and the convienence of having a "recipe walkthrough"... we might just even learn something too!

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