What changes will stay in the consumer and business relationship when the pandemic is over?

Instacart deliveries of groceries are now regular occurrences on my block. A recent drive-by of Walmart’s pickup area had numerous vehicles pulling in to pick up groceries and ordered items.

Walgreens in Brainerd recently joined other retailers with a designated parking space for order pickups. Some stores moved away from their more temporary curbside pickups as spring moved into summer, others set up designated parking spaces — like Target and Kohl’s — which have remained in service.

Those going to stores or appointments have gotten used to leaving space in check-out lines, talking to clerks on the other side of the plexiglass and seeing widespread face mask wearing here in the Brainerd and Baxter areas.

Online shopping at local stores, online food ordering, contactless delivery, grocery deliveries and store pickups are likely to continue for sometime.

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Chipotle announced it is creating a new restaurant format that is exclusively set up for pickup and deliveries. It will be Chipotle Digital Kitchen and will start off Saturday, Nov. 14, in New York state. In October, Chipotle reported its largest ever quarterly sales with online orders offsetting lost in-dining traffic.

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Chipotle announced the new prototype saying the concept will allow the restaurant to go to urban areas that wouldn’t support a full-size restaurant.

The Chipotle Digital Kitchen is the restaurant chain's new format, which is exclusively set up for order pickup or delivery. The first Chipotle Digital Kitchen opens Saturday in New York.  Image from Chipotle
The Chipotle Digital Kitchen is the restaurant chain's new format, which is exclusively set up for order pickup or delivery. The first Chipotle Digital Kitchen opens Saturday in New York. Image from Chipotle

“It is unique because it does not include a dining room or front service line and guests must order in advance via Chipotle.com, the Chipotle app or third-party delivery partners,” Chipotle announced in a news release. Third-party delivery partners would be operations like DoorDash or Food Dudes that provide delivery for fast food and local restaurants that didn’t have their own delivery services. “Orders can be picked up from a lobby that is designed to include all of the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant. The Digital Kitchen will also service large catering orders available for pick up in a separate lobby with its own dedicated entry.”

"The Digital Kitchen incorporates innovative features that will complement our rapidly growing digital business, while delivering a convenient and frictionless experience for our guests," said Curt Garner, chief technology officer of Chipotle. "With digital sales tripling year over year last quarter, consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before so we're constantly exploring new ways to enhance the experience for our guests."

At retailers like Kohl’s there are incentives to order online and do a local store pickup. Kohl’s, like Cub Foods, has the designated parking area with numbered spots and the simple online check-in system so a store associate is notified and comes out to deliver the order through a popped trunk or back window.

So for those looking to shop local this season and still have delivery or pickup options, both small and large businesses are stepping up to alter their services, add options and find ways to keep going while being mindful of the importance of keeping people safe from the coronavirus.

A new Spectrum Store opened on Edgewood Drive in Baxter where customers can have an interactive experience in checking out what the company offers, make payments and exchange or upgrade equipment. Submitted photo
A new Spectrum Store opened on Edgewood Drive in Baxter where customers can have an interactive experience in checking out what the company offers, make payments and exchange or upgrade equipment. Submitted photo

A new Spectrum Store is now open in Baxter. Charter Communications Inc. announced the opening of the new store, reporting it offers a convenient option for customers to add or manage services for Spectrum Internet, TV, mobile or voice services.

“Our Spectrum stores team is here to help our local customers who need support in getting and staying connected during these uncertain times,” said Pattie Eliason, senior vice president, Spectrum Stores and Retail. “They are working to make our new store in Baxter a safe, convenient environment to add or manage services, shop for devices and accessories or make payments, while ensuring we adhere to current local and state health and safety guidelines.”

The new Baxter store at 14303 Edgewood Drive is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays with social distancing required, frequent cleaning and disinfecting, and store occupancy managed by employees.

The company reported its new store is quite a change from the past with this store offering the latest devices and accessories compatible with Spectrum Mobile, opportunities to experience the interactive Spectrum TV app across a number of devices such as Apple TV, and more, in addition to being able to make payments and upgrade or exchange equipment.

For the new store's opening, Spectrum reports it will further one of its long-standing philanthropic programs, Spectrum Housing Assist, by distributing Safe and Healthy Home Kits at the new Baxter store on a first-come, first-served basis. The free kits contain a weather radio, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide tester, and other helpful supplies to make homes safer and healthier. The company stated its Spectrum Housing Assist, which began in 2015, has resulted in improvements to more than 50,000 homes to date.

Charter Communications Inc. recently opened a new Spectrum Store on at 14303 Edgewood Drive in Baxter.
Charter Communications Inc. recently opened a new Spectrum Store on at 14303 Edgewood Drive in Baxter.

This holiday season, order early. Those who loved the rush of the crowds on the final Saturday before Christmas or going out on Christmas Eve to shop may want to make some adjustments this season. And for those who normally do order items, think ahead.

Ordering furniture in October for a number of large furniture companies meant getting a delivery into February or March. The coronavirus interrupted manufacturing schedules as companies shut down production in some cases in the spring. On its website, Ashley Furniture notes it paused production lines in the spring, which resulted in a longer wait for orders. “Please be aware shipping times are longer than normal.”

They aren’t alone. So if there is something on the wish list, considering delivery times will be more important this year than ever. Black Friday deals continue this weekend and this month. Some stores have yet to release their Black Friday plans, but more should be coming in the next few days.