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5 Grocery Store Problems Whole Foods Thinks Its New Stores Will Solve

April 28, 2016

If you've ever referred to Whole Foods as "Whole Paycheck," you may be excited to learn about their new offshoot chain, 365 by Whole Foods Market. The first location will open in the Silver Lake neighborhood of L.A. next month, with the next two planned for Lake Oswego, Oregon and Bellevue, Washington in July and September.

A rendering of the Silver Lake store. Photo by 365 by Whole Foods Market

The 365 stores will try to tackle a central problem of grocery shopping: that high-quality foods are often not affordable.

But the design of the stores (which the company shared with Business Insider)—and how they will vary from traditional Whole Foods locations—hints at other grocery-shopping pain points the company has identified and how it plans to solve them:

  1. It's hard to find what you need. The goal for the 365 stores is to have everything in eyesight: Customers should be able to see the whole store from wherever they stand, with lower fixtures and shelving units that make it easier to find—and then reach—the turmeric.
  2. The selection is overwhelming. Whereas a typical Whole Foods carries after 20,000 items, 365 stores will offer about 7,000—a mix of 365 Everyday Value (the Whole Foods private label) and national brands.
  3. Prepared foods are inaccessible, shoved to the side of the store and surrounded by crowds. At 365 locations, the prepared food section will be at the center of the store, and so you avoid...
  4. Waiting in line for 30 minutes to buy hummus from the salad bar. There will be express check-outs (accepting only credit cards and Apple Pay) centrally located near the prepared foods.
  5. There's no place to hang out? According to Jeff Turnas, president of the new chain, 365 will distinguish itself from its competitors (Trader Joe's, Kroger, Sprouts) by offering shoppers places to hang out; in addition to in-store restaurants, there will be spaces like craft beer, coffee, and juice bars.
The Lake Oswego location, to open in July 2016. Photo by 365 by Whole Foods Market

365 is meant to appeal to younger, millennial shoppers, and judging from these plans, it seems that Whole Foods is putting its money on the observations that millennials want it all high-quality groceries for low prices; they like to shop quickly (and are more likely to make fast stops at the store for particular items rather than big shopping trips); they spend money on prepared foods and convenience items; and they see the grocery store as a type of community center.

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Much of the new configurations seem like they'll improve the shopping experience—there might be less time waiting in line or searching the three olive oil displays to try to find the one we're looking for—but we're left with one huge question:

If the goal, as stated by Whole Foods, is to "bring healthy foods to even more communities with a fresh, quality-meets-value shopping experience that’s fun and convenient," shouldn't the company have diversified its initial group of 365 locations, opening at least one of the first 3 stores in an underserved community where good-quality groceries at any price are hard to find?

The Silver Lake location is 10 minutes by car from the Glendale Whole Foods and 15 minutes from the Arroyo location; the Lake Oswego 365 market is 20 minutes from the Bridgeport location and 25 minutes from the Laurelhurst store; and the Bellevue store is 10 minutes from a Whole Foods proper. (See the rest of the planned locations here.) Will these stores be of service to those people most in need of nutritious, low-cost groceries?

Is this a step in truly making "healthy living easier for everyone"—or in making it more convenient for a chosen few?

What irks you the most about the grocery store experience? And can you imagine "hanging out" there? Tell us in the comments below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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  • Bevi
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


robin.amato September 15, 2016
My local whole foods remodeled their beer/wine section to include a bar. I frequently see people there. Also the new Wegmans near us has a pub inside it, plus the large salad/hot bar selection & seating.
Rebecca A. April 29, 2016
What irks me most is massive companies opening stores (especially smaller, 'local/express' ones which we have an ever-increasing rash of in the uk) and driving out small, local, independent shops. They seem like handy, convenient things but they take money directly out of the community and into these giant corporations' pockets instead.
lloreen April 28, 2016
My whole foods now has a bar/restaurant. It seems very random to me and I've never seen anyone in it. Do people really want to have a cocktail in the grocery store? Are they trying to get us drunk so we'll buy more expensive cheese? I think mostly we just want to grab our groceries and run. And the bar now takes up the space where there used to be tables for the lunch crowd. I think this is a poorly-thought out idea.
sara_ann April 30, 2016
One of my friends wanted to meet up and eat at the restaurant in our grocery store. I thought it was a little strange but apparently people like to eat at the grocery store.
Loves F. April 28, 2016
HA! "Will these stores be of service to those people most in need of nutritious, low-cost groceries?" the answer, at least for the Washington store, is no. Bellevue isn't a low income area (I live in Seattle, just across the lake from Bvue... this location is smack dab in the middle of the fancy new development and high rises... just down the street from a Neiman Marcus)... according to Wikipedia, "Based on per capita income, Bellevue is the 6th wealthiest of 522 communities in the state of Washington." So, way to go, Whole Foods. I can think of plenty of neighborhoods in the greater Seattle area that would be better served by this store.
Kc April 28, 2016
Yup, Lake Oswego is the fancy suburb of Portland. What a joke as far as accessibility to lower income folks. Though the distance from other PDX locations makes sense to me with population numbers. They are probably competing less with themselves and more with other higher end chains in the area.
Bevi April 28, 2016
The Daily Table, located in Dorchester MA, addresses the concerns you express for nutritious, low cost food made available to low income families. I urge you to contact Doug Rauch (former President of Trader Joe's) to learn how it's done. That would be an article well worth publishing so readers can see how The Daily Table tackles not only the issue of affordable nutritious food for those with less income, but also the troubling issue of food waste.
Sarah J. April 28, 2016
Thanks for the tip, Bevi! I'll definitely look into The Daily Table.