Recipe Touchscreens a Hit at Dash's

Dash's Market here has installed new touchscreens featuring interactive technology designed to get customers cooking and sales heated up. The extra-large touchscreens, the newest technology from ShoptoCook, are designed to help customers prepare a creative meal at home with little trouble. It's a destination. Its size and graphics attract people to the screen, said Joe Dash, co-owner

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Dash's Market here has installed new touchscreens featuring interactive technology designed to get customers cooking and sales heated up.

The extra-large touchscreens, the newest technology from ShoptoCook, are designed to help customers prepare a creative meal at home with little trouble.

“It's a destination. Its size and graphics attract people to the screen,” said Joe Dash, co-owner of the upscale, four-unit western New York independent.

“They walk over to it just out of curiosity, and then they see what it offers. You can see it from maybe 30 to 40 feet away. It's about 30 by 18 inches, maybe a little bigger.”

The screen's placement — adjacent to the meat and seafood departments — is key to making the most of it, owners Joe Dash and Mark Mahoney told SN.

“That's where customers are looking for center-of-the-plate items and need to know how to cook them,” Mahoney said.

“It's a no brainer. Customers all the time had been asking our meat and seafood managers how to cook certain things.”

More than 2,000 recipes are offered in the database and are organized by ingredient, such as seafood or chicken, or by category, such as “Meals in Minutes,” “Healthy Meals,” “Weight Management” and “Diabetes Management,” all accessed by touching the corresponding title on the screen.

“This can turn a person who doesn't necessarily know how to cook into an at-home chef,” said Joe Dash.

“Even those people who already know how to cook may be having menu fatigue. Same old, same old. This allows them to get creative and try new things.”

And, when shoppers decide to try cooking something new, it can be a particular boon, Mahoney explained.

“When they bring up a new, enticing recipe, they may very well need ingredients they don't already have on hand. We see them walking around with a printed recipe in their hand, often heading for the spices or produce aisle.”

The sheer number of people printing out recipes has been an unexpected bonus.

“They're printing out 40% of the recipes they're looking at on the screen. That's double what we expected. ShoptoCook told us it would be about 20%,” Mahoney said.

Comments from customers have been all positive, Dash and Mahoney agreed.

“They've told us it's great, and they get very involved. For instance, they might suggest adding a particular recipe, and we will. An example is one person asked for soft shell crab recipes,” Dash told SN.

“We sell soft shell crabs, and all we had to do was ask ShoptoCook to add some recipes for them. For seasonal, niche items like that, it's quick. They'll put recipes in.”

Dash expects the ShoptoCook screen to spur a climb in seafood sales, because so many shoppers are unfamiliar with cooking seafood, and as a result, are often leery about purchasing it. He believes help from the interactive screen will put them at ease.

“I'm sure we'll see one of the biggest lifts there.”

The retailer's weekly circular is also accessible via the screen, so customers can use the interactive circular to see which meat or poultry or seafood items are on special, and then go right to the recipes for that item.

Dash's Market, once associated with Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Markets as a franchisee, has been completely independent since the early 2000s, Dash said.

At that time, Dash and Mahoney remodeled and updated the four stores.

“Mark and I traveled extensively, looking at what other retailers were doing, and we realized there was a void, that there was a place in this market for a smaller, unique, fresh store,” Dash said.

“We consider that Dash's Markets falls somewhere between a traditional grocery store and a Whole Foods. We have an upscale look, with granite counters, tile floors, attractive lighting, and 60% of our sales are in fresh products.

“You won't find a lot of housewares and magazines, things like that. We're a food store, strong on organic and natural.”

The four Dash's Markets range from 16,000 to 30,000 square feet, with about 40% of sales-floor space devoted to perishables.

Dash and Mahoney consider their meat and seafood departments to be the hallmark of the stores, so the installation of the new ShoptoCook touchscreens adjacent to these departments was a good fit.

Dash and Mahoney started working with ShoptoCook about five months ago, putting the screens in two stores that were already equipped with wireless access. Then, seeing positive customer response, they followed up quickly, preparing the other two stores for the screens.

“This was the first time we'd worked with them [ShoptoCook],” Dash said.

Frank Beurskens, the chief executive officer of ShoptoCook, launched the concept in 2001 with smaller kiosk-type screens, and supermarket operators quickly seized the opportunity to get their customers “dinner worldly,” as Dash puts it.

Currently, 750 ShoptoCook kiosks are in operation in about 300 supermarket units, with most stores placing one in the meat department, and one either toward the entrance of the store or elsewhere.

The new, larger touchscreens will be used for upgrades and new installations, Beurskens told SN. Twenty-five stores, in addition to Dash's, will have ShoptoCook's big screens by the end of this month, he said.

Meanwhile, Beurskens pointed out to SN that the ShoptoCook concept is much broader than it seems at first look.

“This application on the big screen moves the whole concept up. It's all about digital merchandising, interactive merchandising.”

Certainly, the recipes and information encourage shoppers to traverse more of the store, but making ad circulars interactive takes merchandising up a notch, he said.

Shoppers “can look at it on the screen, see what's on special, and then, with one touch, go right to a whole lot of recipes using that item,” Beurskens said.

And, recipes help boost sales of ingredients throughout the store.

“Our whole concept of recipe-based merchandising is if I can get [customers] to select a new recipe, chances are there will be two to four ingredients needed that are not in their pantry.”

Beurskens told SN that the “Meals in Minutes” category often is the most popular on a retailer's ShoptoCook screen.

That speaks to the value of catching the shopper who hasn't had time to plan a meal at the last minute in the store, he pointed out.