Kiosks have a long history in supermarkets. When we were working on our 50th anniversary issue of Supermarket News in 2002, part of my job was to review archival photographs from the early days of the modern supermarket era. I recall seeing several different types of kiosks, including one that made fresh orange juice (good luck trying to find one of those today, unless it's HACCP-certified and attached to pasteurization equipment).
Their purpose, design and location may have changed over the years, but these miniature sales outlets are just as important now as they were back when. Indeed, they've become quite the rage. Schnuck Markets has just introduced a "ShoptoCook Recipe Solutions Center" to 27 stores following a single-unit pilot last year. During a trip out to visit Hy-Vee last month, I learned the chain is expanding its in-store chef program, which includes an investment in demonstration kiosks.
And any discussion of this topic wouldn't be complete without mentioning Publix, with its successful Apron's program, which emphasizes in-store cooking demonstrations, easy-to-read recipe cards, and readily available ingredients, merchandised at the kiosk.
Schnucks' program is a bit different. Here, the devices aren't manned action stations, but sources of information. Each store features three kiosks, including one each in the meat and wine departments, that provide printed recipes, wine pairings and information on a variety of health conditions.
The fact that retailers are showing renewed interest in these little way stations isn't surprising, They're flexible merchandisers that pack a marketing punch. Nothing beats a chef in a toque and the aroma of fresh food. Even if kiosks are limited to dispensing information in the whole health department or recipes near the meat case, they serve as an important customer intercept capable of influencing purchase decisions. More power to 'em.