Are Drive-Thru Grocery Stores the Future of Food Retail?


Addie’s, a new drive-up grocery store, just opened its first location in Norwood, Massachusetts, where shoppers will never need to step foot inside.

Instead, customers order everything on their list using Addie’s website or app and choose a pick-up time that works for them. When the time comes, all that’s left to do is park in one of Addie’s 14 pull-through pickup lanes and an employee will bring the groceries to the car.

“We believe that our model is the future of grocery shopping for many customers – busy families, shoppers with mobility constraints, workers on the go, and people who simply want to spend their time doing something other than wandering grocery aisles,” Jim McQuade, Addie’s co-founder and CEO told The Food Institute.

McQuade, a father of three, co-founded Addie’s with CTO Jeremiah Strauss. Their first 22,000-square-foot store houses a curated list of 4,500 products from both national and local brands, with all the essentials you would expect to find at a traditional grocer.

But while traditional grocery stores are “designed for display,” as McQuade puts it, Addie’s is designed for efficiency.


Addie’s numbered drive-up lanes for grocery pickup.

“Offering online grocery convenience out of a customer-facing supermarket is like trying to run Zappos out of the shoe department of a Macy’s,” McQuade explained. “Because customers never step foot in our stores, our operations are significantly more efficient, saving our customers both time and money.”

Crucial to the success of Addie’s pickup-only model is an advanced inventory management system that allows customers to see accurate, real-time inventory while placing their order. This system aims to eliminate the need for surprise substitutions, a major source of frustration for customers.

“Offering online grocery convenience out of a customer-facing supermarket is like trying to run Zappos out of the shoe department of a Macy’s.”Jim McQuade, Addie’s co-founder and CEO

“For stores that don’t know exactly what is on their shelves at all times (versus in the back room or in a current customer’s cart), broken promises are inevitable,” said McQuade.

Buoyed by $10.1 million in new seed funding led by Disruptive Innovation Fund, Addie’s plans to expand with more store locations and become what McQuade calls “a 21st-century-defining retailer.”

“Our first location here in Norwood is where it all begins, and we see millions of families across the country who also need this convenience and want these values in their lives,” he said. “We will be expanding to better serve all of them.”

The market for convenient curbside grocery pickup is certainly ripe for expansion. U.S. online grocery sales totaled $9.1 billion in December, up 2.4% from the year-earlier period, driven by an increase in pickup orders, according to Brick Meets Click.

Meanwhile, JackBe, another curbside drive-thru grocer, opened its first location in Oklahoma City on Jan. 10 – the first of three locations it’s set to open this year. With a model similar to Addie’s, JackBe team members also deliver groceries right to the customer’s car.