By Dave Fidlin
New app touts rapid delivery service to Downtown residents
Residents throughout San Diego’s Downtown neighborhoods have a new option at their fingertips for groceries and the shopping can occur without leaving the house.
San Diego joined a growing list of cities across the U.S. taking part in a new app-based grocery delivery service. San Francisco-based Instacart entered the market in early August and, according to company officials, the service has been well-received.
“There’s been a lot of enthusiasm in San Diego,” said David Holyoak, Instacart’s operations manager. “It’s been like a rocket ship. It’s just taken off.”
Before entering a market, the company, founded in 2012, forges relationships with grocers interested in selling a selection of their merchandise through the app. An Instacart representative reviews the order, picks up the items and delivers them to the recipient’s home.
Depending upon the customer’s wishes, Instacart is promising a turnaround time of one to two hours. The cost of delivering the food depends on the size of the order and when the customer specifically needs the items.
Instacart has put in place a few caveats, including a provision that orders meet a threshold of at least $10.
In a nod to its Silicon Valley roots in the Bay Area, Instacart has established a strong footprint within California in its four years of existence. The company has also branched off into other geographic areas, to the West and East coasts and the Midwest as well. The service is available in 24 cities.
Holyoak said San Diego was on Instacart’s radar the past year. When it entered the market in August, the service was available to a small contingent of the city, including all of Downtown and a few of Uptown’s neighborhoods.
After the brief pilot phase this summer, Holyoak said the local response has since prompted the company to expand service to other areas of San Diego, including La Jolla.
A smattering of local and national grocers are offering Instacart service to San Diego residents. The list of participating retailers includes Costco, Jimbo’s Naturally, Petco, Ralph’s, Smart & Final and Whole Foods.
Chris Holtzapple, general manager of Jimbo’s 3-year-old Downtown location in the Westfield Horton Plaza, said a service such as Instacart is a logical part of the company’s evolution.
“When we came to the Downtown area, we knew we were going to be serving a whole new demographic,” Holtzapple said. “We had to look at ways of reaching our customers. People had been requesting some type of delivery service.”
When Instacart began putting out feelers in the San Diego market last year, Holtzapple said Jimbo’s reviewed what they offered and quickly began negotiating with them.
Jimbo’s participation with Instacart began with a soft-launch period in early August. In the first month of the rollout, Holtzapple said use was intermittent.
“But we’ve seen significant growth since then,” Holtzapple said. “The past month was very good for us. It’s turned out to be a real positive for us.”
When asked what types of foods users tend to request most often, Holtzapple said interest runs “across the board.”
“It really depends on the time of day,” he said. “When you’re talking about lunch time, there are a lot of people making requests from the nearby office buildings. But when it’s in the evening, we’re receiving orders from people in the high-rise apartments, and they’re looking for more big-ticket items.”
Holyoak said Instacart has largely poured its resources into highly dense urban environments, but he envisions a day in the not-too-distant future where the app will serve residents in other living environments as well.
“We’d also like to start breaking into the suburbs,” Holyoak said. “As far as we’re concerned, the sky’s the limit. We’ve had a great start so far.”
For more details on Instacart and how the app works, visit instacart.com.
—Dave Fidlin is a freelance journalist with a special affinity for San Diego and its people. Contact him at email@example.com.