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gather (updated 10/09/16)

New grocery store model centered around the mission of buying only what you need, minimizing waste, and connecting communities.

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The Idea:

Gather is a new model for grocery store design - gathering food and community together. Users will make a grocery list on the Gather app on their smartphone or computer  - the list is completely customizable so you buy ONLY what you need and nothing more: 10 oz of spinach, 2 cups of berries, 3 bananas. In this way users can make sure that they are not overbuying food they know they will never be able to finish before it expires (a consistent issue for many NYC chapter members, especially those cooking for one). The Gather app will then confirm your order and send a friendly confirmation and time to pick up your order.

Meanwhile at the Gather grocery store, staff members are filling order by measuring out bulk items to build the customized orders. Customers will need to bring their own bags and packaging to the shop to pick up their orders, drastically cutting down on packaging waste as well. A small communal "gather cafe" will be used as the customer waiting area for customers to wait in if they arrive before their order is ready. The gather cafe, “ready-to-go” meals will be for sale (made from all ingredients that will expire soon). The cafe will be a place for the community to physically gather and create a positive, stress free experience related to food purchasing.

Back at home - the user can keep track of items used on their app and track their progress in not wasting food. The app will keep track of all filled orders and a few days later remind the customers, asking if they have used everything in the order. The customer will note if items were thrown out instead of being eaten. Overtime the app will track an individual customer's progress in food waste. Potential features of the app could include: reminders to the customer - “Did you enjoy your spinach yet?”, linking with friends to compare food waste and allowing customers to engage in friendly competition, data collection by the gather grocery store to see how often people waste, how much, and what type of items. This data collection would allow the gather grocery store to continuously refine their own business model.


We drew the grocery store model from the ‘old county general stores’ where clerks used to gather all items on lists for customers - and more recently - from community Crop Share Associations (CSAs) where a community will all buy a share of a farmer’s crop and every week go to a pickup point to gather their share of all of the veggies for that week. Thank you to Kate Rushton for drawing our attention to this german grocery store with a similar goal towards bulk food items and customer control of quantity:

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Thank you to Amber Matthews suggestion of implementing this is a student university setting. A prototype of this business model at a local university such as NYU, Columbia, or Pratt could help us to understand the effectiveness of this idea. Generally a dense, tightly knit community where a lot of individuals are buying food/cooking for only themselves would be what we expect an ideal environment for gather.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

The gather team needs: 1. General insight into market supply chains and grocery store management. Thank you to Olivia Paquette for informing us on the practicality of stores splitting bulk items. 2. To know effective are apps that require users to self report? What if the app encourages competition or rewards continuous self reporting with discounts? (Thank you to Lindsay Berardi for bringing this question to our attention!)

Tell us about your work experience:

Delia Kulukundis, a landscape architect, Alison Brown, an urban planner, and Alexandra Liu, a brand strategist and planner, are all members of the NYC openIDEO chapter and are all based in New York.

This idea emerged from

  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s just been created! It’s existed for 1 day - 1 month

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

"Nana, there is a new grocery store up the street where I can buy exactly what we need with no leftovers. How many eggs do you need to bake your 'word-famous' oatmeal-raisin cookies?"

How is your idea unique to the space?

New Yorkers often live in small living conditions. Sharing precious fridge space with roommates and cooking for one means New Yorkers need to be savvy about their food purchasing choices or risk wasting food!

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

For gather to be truly successful we need to partner with an established food provider who would understand the internal logistics of food distribution and packaging.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Gather is both a location and an app. Data collection through the app will allow us to see how often people waste, how much, and what type of items are most wasted. This data collection would allow the gather grocery store to continuously refine their own business model to strive for the largest social and environmental impact possible.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Simone Rubio

Hello! We are also a NYC team, glad to see fellow neighbors in the refinement phase.
Love the idea of the store, specially the part about bringing your own container. I wish I had a store like that near me (east village).
My only suggestion is that it'd be nice if the cafe also offered an option of "bring our own container" and/or "returnable container' for the prepared meals.
Good work!

this is us: Food

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