FAB eZine

OTG turns on the magic with Just Walk Out

OTG has brought “game-changing” checkout-free shopping to US airports at select CIBO Express Gourmet Market stores with the deployment of Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology — a world-first for airports.

The travel restaurateur introduced the technology on 16 March at its CIBO Express Gourmet Market in Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal C. Further launches will follow at fellow CIBO Express Gourmet Markets at Newark Liberty and New York LaGuardia, and then at other OTG outlets, CEO Rick Blatstein told The Moodie Davitt Report Chairman Martin Moodie on the eve of the launch [just before the COVID-19 crisis forced restrictions on many US airports].

Martin Moodie: Rick, this is brand new, right? My understanding is that Amazon's Just Walk Out technology was proprietary until now and is now being rolled out to other retailers?

Rick Blatstein: Yes. They announced on 9 March that they were going to roll out to third parties. And we opened our first store on 16 March. And, obviously, this will certainly be the first in the world inside of airports and maybe the first in the world anywhere.

You always like to be a first mover. How did you manage to get to the front of that particular queue?

Martin, I love you. So, if I told you, I'd have to kill you!

“It’s really the worst part of any experience to wait in a line. Our objective is to speed them up and reduce them to as little as possible.”

– Rick Blatstein

How exciting is this development and how much of a game-changer?

It’s extremely exciting. We've been working with Amazon quietly for quite some time on this project. It has just been exciting for our crew members at OTG. I have special teams that worked on this and they worked with the special teams at Amazon. There’s a real kindred spirit between our two companies over what’s happening with this.

It’s been a very exciting time for us to do this. It’s going to change retail around the world forever. People will be able to go in, take what they want, and just walk out. It’s a magical experience. And, as you know, at OTG, we’re always trying to heighten experience for customers, because we’re all about the customers. And this experience is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. The technology behind it is just spectacular. The people behind it are amazing, brilliant people who understand the insights that we’re going to get and learn from all of this. It’s a game-changer, an entire shift.

Rick Blatstein: “It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It ranks right up there at the top.”

In such an acutely time-sensitive environment as the airport, this is really a step up from anything that has existed. You talk of a frictionless experience in your press release. It’s certainly going to be a cashless experience, a queue-less experience, and of course the queue is the bane of the time-sensitive airport consumer. So, really it’s made for the airport environment, isn’t it?

It’s just perfect for the airport environment. People are stressed. Maybe you slept through your alarm in the morning and you’re harried and you’ve rushed around, but now you can just walk in, take what you want, and walk out. It's a magical experience.

And once again we’re putting control in the traveller’s hands. Whatever the traveller wants, whatever our customers want, is what they get. They can take what they like, walk out the door, and it’s simple. It just gives them their time back and it takes away that stress. Because as you know, we look at a line and we don’t want to wait in a line. We don’t know if we have enough time or how fast that line is going. This takes away all these lines. They’re gone!

It’s really the worst part of any experience to wait on a line. Our objective is to speed them up and reduce them to as little as possible.

Just for the uninitiated among our readers, tell us about the system and how it works. It differs, as I understand, from the Amazon Go stores, where shoppers use their smartphones with a companion app and walk in and pay for purchases automatically through their Amazon accounts. With you, it's about credit cards. Is that right?

Yes, so when you come into the store, you just dip your credit card and you walk right in. It’s very simple. You don’t need to use an Amazon Go app. You don’t need to use anything else. You use the credit card you like; it clears you and you walk in. It’s really simple as can be.

You’re introducing it initially on a limited basis to your CIBO Express concept, and then will you roll it out elsewhere?

Yes. We'll start with our CIBO Express Gourmet Markets in Newark, Terminal C. But then, you’re going to see, within some time thereafter, a very large rollout. This will become a very big part of the DNA of OTG and a big part of the OTG experience.

“We’re in our 25th year and I feel like we’re just getting started. The best is yet to come.”

–Rick Blatstein

Will it be part of the OTG and Starbucks experience? Because that’s a new relationship to you [following the recent breaking of the former exclusivity between Starbucks and HMSHost for US airports] and an important one.

Well, we’re extremely excited about our partnership with Starbucks. They’re a spectacular company. We’re going to offer Mobile Pay, we're going to offer pick-up stations, we’re going to offer experiential stores, we’re going to offer many different ways.

You will be able to get your Starbucks and it can be delivered in our restaurants and our gate hold areas. We’re also going to offer some new technologies. You never know what the future brings with mobile and technology and these kinds of partnerships. This is all part of the future and evolution of OTG.

Any data privacy issues around this? Amazon Just Walk Out is a proprietary system and you’re a third-party store operator, both with access to customer data. Any issues around that?

No. One of the things that we love about it is it does not use any facial recognition. So with privacy, which is very important to OTG and very important to everybody around the world, we’re not concerned with issues whatsoever.

It’s certainly an important innovation, which has caused a lot of ripples domestically and been very successful. OTG has an enviable track record in terms of innovation. How does this rank in terms of that heritage?

It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It ranks right up there at the top. You know, we introduced our new technology platform [iPad-ordering] ten years ago and we’ve changed the dynamics inside an airport restaurant in terms of you can get what you want, when you want it, as quickly as you want, and be able to just walk out after that.

This is spectacular for us. Our Starbucks relationship is spectacular for us. We have some other things that you’ll see in the future. We’re excited. You know, it’s funny, we’re in our 25th year and I feel like we’re just getting started. The best is yet to come.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine

Issue 278 | 7 April 2020

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 12 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit www.moodiedavittreport.com and to subscribe, please e-mail sinead@moodiedavittreport.com

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