- Whole Foods opened its newest US store on January 30.
- It features a half dozen self-checkout registers, a fresh-cut-pasta bar, and self-pour taps of beer and wine.
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Whole Foods opened a new store in Richmond, Virginia, on January 30.
I visited the 47,000-square-foot store last week to see if the Amazon-owned grocer is testing any new strategies, layouts, or products in its newest store.
Here’s what I found during my visit.
The new Whole Foods store is on a busy street near the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University and within a 10-minute drive of downtown Richmond.
Customers waited in line for hours to be among the first to step inside the new store when it opened on January 30.
The store has been bustling with a steady stream of customers since, according to three visits over the past week.
One entrance of the building leads directly into the store’s prepared-foods section.
This section features a hot-food bar, salad bar, bottled and canned beverages, and grab-and-go food items.
It also offers hot pizzas, deli meat, fresh sushi …
… and a build-your-own mezze bowl bar.
Nearby, a display of desserts and sparkling wine tempts shoppers on their way to the checkout line.
A half dozen self-checkout machines are conveniently located next to the food bars. Whole Foods only recently started adding these to its stores.
The separate entrance and self-checkout on this side of the store make it easy to execute a quick shop or pick up a meal, without having to walk through the entire store.
Also on this side of the store is a set of stairs leading to a mezzanine level, where shoppers can dine in.
The mezzanine features multiple televisions and a heated, open-air porch.
Also on this level, shoppers can pour their own beer and wine from more than a dozen taps.
The system allows customers to select any beverage they want and only pay for the amount that they pour. A card keeps track of their pours.
Back on the other side of the store, another entrance leads shoppers to the fresh produce department and a set of Amazon lockers.
The produce department overall was well-organised and brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables.
The department felt distinctively smaller than the produce sections of other Whole Foods stores I have visited.
This made for a convenient shopping experience.
The department also offered a fresh-cut-pasta bar, with options like sweet potato gnocchi and roasted eggplant ravioli.
Near the pasta, a wall of cheese was on display.
Walking further into the store, I found the “wellness and beauty” department.
Back-lit shelving highlighted the products in this aisle.
I found several non-grocery items near this department, like clothing …
… candles …
… seasonal gifts and toys …
… cosmetics …
… and school supplies.
Moving on, I found a well-stocked row of bulk goods …
… wine and beer …
… and the meat and fish departments.
This section is located in a cove-like area of the store that leads into a hallway of refrigerated meat and dairy products.
Here’s the meat-and-dairy hallway.
At the end of the hallway, a sign directs shoppers to the bakery and prepared foods.
The bakery features displays of pies, cakes …
… and small treats.
It also has a bread slicer.
On my way out of the store, I spotted a mini checkout register and free snacks on display for the next generation of Whole Foods shoppers.
Overall, I was impressed by the newest Whole Foods store.
The store didn’t make any groundbreaking departures from Whole Foods’ older stores. But it was convenient and had some features I’ve never personally seen before at Whole Foods, including the self-checkout, fresh-cut pasta, and self-pour taps of beer and wine.
The mezzanine area with the outdoor porch offers a wide range of seating options, and I can see this space generating big crowds during televised sporting events.
My favourite aspect of the store was the layout. I appreciate the separate entrance and checkouts designed to meet the needs of the quick-trip shopper.