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Key Food Delivering Over 200 Grocery Orders Each Week

Two Drivers Serve Customers Who Need Their Groceries Dropped Off at Home
Key Food Van
The colorful vehicle graphics on this Key Food van could help advertise that the store makes home deliveries. Dave Schatz

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–The downtown Key Food store is offering free delivery -- making as many as 210 deliveries a week for customers who spend at least $50 on a grocery order and live in the Hub City, Highland Park, or South Edison.

Free grocery delivery, on tickets of $50 or more, is a common practice in the Hub City, allowing residents to walk to the market but not have to carry their purchases home.

A customer service employee at the New Brunswick Foodtown told New Brunswick Today that her store did not keep track of how many deliveries it makes, but confirmed that only one van is needed.

Xtra Savings Supermarket on Suydam Street said it makes as many as 20 deliveries a day with the most being made on Saturdays and Sundays.

But Key Food employs two full-time drivers, and runs two delivery vans during peak hours.

The driver escorts customers opting for delivery to one of the two vans waiting in front of the store, after the customer has paid for the order. The driver then loads the groceries into one of the Key Food logo-printed Ford vans, then drives the groceries to the patron’s home, giving the customer a ride back home from Wellness Plaza as well.

“A lot of people have cars but still walk [to shop at Key Food] and they get the van to drop them off back home,” said one of the people.

Two overlapping shifts, one from 11am-7pm, and the other from 2pm-10pm allow both the stores drivers to be making deliveries at the same time, for five hours, from 2-7pm during peak business hours.

The drivers receive small tips about one-fifth of the time, said one of the people who did not want to be identified, adding that Saturday is the busiest day of the week for deliveries.

While the new downtown Key Food Marketplace is offering great delivery service and has expanded its hours starting February 1, it does not appear to be embracing technology to offer consumers any type of integrated or personalized experience, or using any other transactional channels, besides in-store shopping.

For example, the store has not added online grocery shopping, and this reporter was not able to view the weekly circular, after selecting the Hub City location on the Key Food website.

The site is maintained by the parent company, a co-operative, which also operates stores under different names including: Food Universe Marketplace, Food Dynasty, Urban Market, and now Food Emporium, its newest banner, which it purchased from A&P recently in bankruptcy-court. 

“We could not locate a circular for this store. Please select another,” reads a prompt on the site.  

While the mobile app may be another option, you must have a Savings Club Card to complete registration on the app.

This reporter shopped at the store recently but was not asked to get his own Savings Club Card by his cashier at check-out, a common practice at many grocery stores and retailers. 

Omnichannel retailing takes place when a company attempts to blend in-store shopping with digital shopping, so as to increase and strengthen the connection with consumers and offer the benefits of practicality or convenience.

“Foundationally, omnichannel is a device-based connected and harmonized ecosystem," Jeff Seablom, managing director of Texas-based consultancy, Alsbridge, told the Progressive Grocer Magazine, which defined the "buzzword" for its readers. 

"For the consumer, it means  a predictable and comfortable, almost untethered experience across all sales channels, whether brick-and-mortar, web or machine, and across customer interaction points."

Store manager, Clifford Lee, declined  requests to comment for this story saying he was new and had just started a couple of weeks ago, “Why don’t you leave your contact information and I’ll give it to the appropriate person,” he said.

Later, he said he'd be able to give this reporter's card to someone for an interview, but then said he couldn't promise the interview at all.

The grocery manager also declined to comment, and when asked how many people the Hub City store employs he said that Key Foods didn't disclose that type of information.

Key Food began paying $20,415 a month in rent on October 1 -- after hustling to open for business on August 21, including $4,445 for fixtures, and $1,250 for a Beer and Wine Permit Fee. However, starting this July its rent will more than triple to $61,271.

The Hub City business will also face a 1% “Annual Percentage Rental” fee if gross sales revenue exceeds $18.5 million in any calendar year.

The first time Key Food would be required to dish out that cost is January 2017, according to its lease with the New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA), which owns and manages the 50,000-square-foot space on the first floor of the Wellness Plaza.

"The NBPA relies on the tenant for rental payments and the tenant must work to build a business in an industry with slim profit margins that relies on customer volume," city spokeswoman Jennifer Bradshaw told NBT prior to the stores grand opening at the end of August. 

The Key Food Stores co-operative is headquartered in Staten Island. Its banners include: Key Food, Key Food Marketplace, Food Dynasty, Key Fresh & Natural, Urban Market, Food Universe, 55 Fulton Market, Roslyn Holiday Farms, Food World, Locust Valley Market, Milford Farms, Vitelio’s Marketplace, and Olive Tree Marketplace. 

Annual sales volume for the 170-store co-operative is estimated to be $1.6 billion.

However, on October 22, 2015, the co-operative confirmed it had aquired 23 more stores in the A&P bankruptcy auction. 

Of note, the company said it would manage two of the 23 stores "at the corporate level" which it has never previously done. 

Unlike the member-owned New Brunswick Key Food store, which is owned by Kevin Kim, the co-op announced that the corporate run stores will feature the "Food Universe" banner. Kim is from NY and also owns two grocery stores in Queens.

"Over the last five years, Key Food has been one of the fastest growing retailers in the Northeast," said Key Foods Co-Operative Inc. in a release, adding that the new A&P stores will do approximately $400 million dollars in annual retail sales

“Key Food is proud to add the A&P stores to our supermarket family and to continue to serve the communities where these stores are located,” said Dean Janeway, Key Foods CEO.

“The customers of these stores deserve a high quality neighborhood grocery store. This is an exciting time for our company as we continue to grow and serve even more loyal customers throughout New York and New Jersey.”