JackBe Grocery jumped into the grocery game in 2023, looking at it from the inside out. This pick-up-only, never-go-inside concept picked up speed quickly, opening a second location soon after its first.
Interview with Alex Ruhter, JackBe founder and CEO.
Why did you think there was space in the grocery industry for a new startup grocery store?
The best way that I can describe this is: We are just like a grocery store, and we are nothing like a grocery store. What this means is that you can access nearly anything that you would assume is in a normal grocery store, but we do this in a way that is significantly better for our customers than the current options that are available. So, what this means is: We’re just like your favorite grocery store, but better. And in our context, we’re better at the convenience of not having to schedule a time to pick up your groceries; we’re better at never allowing substitutions with your order; and we’re better at maintaining and choosing quality produce that meets or exceeds your expectations for somebody when someone else is picking your grocery order.
What supply chain or distribution changes did you have to think through to launch your business?
Our model is built on the idea that most items purchased in a grocery store come from a small percentage of the variety available. So, for us it’s really all about efficiency. We want to take every area of our business model and make it as efficient as possible and since customers are not allowed to enter our store, we want to do our best to provide just enough variety that it meets the various desires of people, and yet reduces the overall/total number of items in our store. This creates a significantly greater supply chain for us, ideally reducing waste and spoilage and maximizing shelf life.
What growth have you seen since the initial opening?
We like to call our first facility our test facility. This is because we had so much to learn in opening a grocery store like this that’s never been done before. What we’ve seen in the early days is that we’ve hit a niche of offering a service that has hit a felt need in the minds of consumers. But we also understand that this concept is completely new for most people. What this means for us is that the sky is the limit for our growth. Sustainability is our short-term goal, but our long-term plans include offering a service that is available and applicable to nearly everyone. That means we have a long way to go!
Why is it important to have innovation driving businesses, especially those like grocery stores that we all use?
Innovation is what sets you apart. A good idea is simply a good idea; executing that idea is what makes all the difference. And when you’ve hit a felt need, the only way to maintain focus is to build a culture of innovation. This just means everything is on the table! We want all staff to know and view their contribution as, “What is it we can do to make this better?” “How can we improve?” It’s not a goal that we strive to achieve, it’s an attitude that we carry. That is what can set anyone apart from other businesses in their industry.
Are there other innovative measures you’ve put into place now that you are operating more than one location?
Going from one location to two locations is the first step in building a concept that is scalable. Everything we’ve done for one, now must be true for multiple locations. Once we’ve done that, it sets us up to multiply even more quickly. So yes, we had to make several changes in preparation for opening our second facility – as simple as confirming that you’re at the right location on our app! We didn’t want customers to order groceries from one location and end up picking them up from another. That was a quick pivot we had to make when launching our second store. We learn from customers in real-time what is working and what isn’t. We put plans in motion to solve problems as quickly as we can. The advantage that we had is that we built our first concept, designed to function with multiple stores; we just had to work through all those initial bumps you experience the first time you do something!
What else do we need to know about innovation?
Anytime you seek to innovate in a particular area, the largest challenge you will face is customer adoption, or maybe better said, changing customer habits. We are, by nature, habitual people and therefore offering a new alternative to what already exists is very exciting for some, but also very new for others. So right on the heels of innovation comes a significant need for grit. Which says, when you’ve seen the path forward and how to get there, you must fight through the difficulty of helping teach, train, and have patience for people that are coming to experience what you have. And the gift is just on the other side of it as you see what you’ve built positively affecting and changing people’s lives. And that makes you come back for more!
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