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Supermarket Wine Kiosks Get Warm Reception

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. Shoppers have embraced a self-service wine kiosk at a Wegmans Food Markets unit here, SN has learned. The most common comment we receive is that it's convenient to be able to purchase wine in the grocery store while they are planning their meals, store manager Bob Finn told SN. While Wegmans does not get any of the profits, it benefits by giving its customers a better shopping experience,

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Shoppers have embraced a self-service wine kiosk at a Wegmans Food Markets unit here, SN has learned.

“The most common comment we receive is that it's convenient to be able to purchase wine in the grocery store while they are planning their meals,” store manager Bob Finn told SN.

While Wegmans does not get any of the profits, it benefits by giving its customers a better shopping experience, Finn said.

The Wegmans kiosk is part of a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board pilot to give shoppers more options in where they buy wine. Under state law, only the PLCB can sell wine and spirits at state-run stores.

A second kiosk is being tested at a Giant Food store in Harrisburg, and 98 others are slated to launch in a statewide rollout beginning next month.

“What the PLCB has done is simply add to its store total,” said Mark D'Andrea, senior director of marketing, Simple Brands, the Conshohocken, Pa., company that manufactures the kiosks.

The two test kiosks are exceeding sales expectations, generating about $36,000 in sales since they were installed June 23, according to D'Andrea.

“We're getting a lot of repeat business,” D'Andrea noted.

In operation from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, the kiosks are 18 feet wide, 10 feet tall and 4 feet deep. They are being tested in two areas of the store. At Giant, it's located near the front entrance, while at Wegmans, it's near the cheese shop.

Each holds about 700 bottles, representing 53 brands, including such popular labels as Yellow Tail, Barefoot and Santa Margherita. Retails range from $5 to $23.

Preliminary results show that various age groups — not just younger, more tech-savvy shoppers — are using the kiosks, according to D'Andrea.

The PLCB gets all kiosk proceeds from the wine sales. Simple Brands profits by selling ad space to wineries on monitors positioned above the kiosks. When the program rolls out to more supermarkets, Simple Brands plans to charge users a $1 convenience fee, which it will keep.

The PLCB is responsible for refilling and cleaning the machine.

“This brings convenience to supermarket consumers in a cost-effective way,” said PLCB spokeswoman Stacey Witalec.

The kiosks require users to go through a series of steps before getting their wine. To prevent sales to underage or intoxicated persons, the buyer's driver's license is inserted into the kiosk, where age information on the bar code is processed. A PLCB employee monitoring each transaction in real-time from a remote location ensures that the photograph on the driver's license matches a video image of the buyer at the kiosk.

There's also a built-in breathalyzer to ensure the buyer is not under the influence. If a breath alcohol level of 0.02 or higher is detected, the consumer will be unable to make a purchase. (The kiosk system is not connected to any law enforcement agency, so those who fail the test do not face penalties.)

About 50 transactions have been declined so far, all for failing the breathalyzer test, the PLCB said.

The entire process should last about 2 to 2.5 minutes for new users, D'Andrea said.