2015-11-13 / Front Page

Hannaford brings service to city

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland planning board gave a unanimous green light to Hannaford Bros. Tuesday night, clearing the way for the supermarket to launch a new “drive-thru” service at its Philbrook Avenue location, near the Maine Mall.

The new service saves Hannaford customers the burden of shopping for their groceries, allowing them to instead call in an order for delivery to their vehicles in the parking lot.

“I think it’s a great new business,” planning board member Linda Boudreau said. “I think our elderly population is going to like this very, very much.”

Hannaford launched the new service, which it calls Hannaford ToGo, at 15 sites last year, primarily in New Hampshire and New York. Another 15 stores have become ToGo locations so far this year. It began in Westbrook this week, Kennebunk two week ago, and already exists in Yarmouth and North Windham.

However, Jay Lord, civil engineering project manager for Hannaford, said the South Portland site would be built with “a twist.”

At existing sites, groceries are delivered to waiting vehicles so that the customer never has to leave his or her car. Payment, redemption of coupons, and all other aspects of the transaction take place in the parking lot. So far, Lord said, the biggest logistical problem with the ToGo service has been storing orders until pick-up. For that reason, the Philbrook Avenue store will have a pickup area built into the right side of the existing building, with areas for dry, cold and frozen items.

“Inside, there will be boxes with all the items designated to that person,” Lord said. “It will just be pulled out, put in the cart, and taken away.”

Lord said Hannaford employees will still help carry groceries to waiting vehicles.

A new service door for delivery vans will be added to the back of the building. City Planner Tex Haeuser said that because the new Hannaford ToGo option is sometimes referred to by the company as a drive-thru service, he misinterpreted the application, thinking customers would drive around to the back of the building in a setup similar to drive-thru windows for banks and fast food restaurants.

As actually proposed, Haeuser said, the ToGo service requires no amendment to Hannaford’s existing site plan, last approved in 2003.

“If I had known (the new door) was just for the delivery vans, I don’t know if I would have felt it needed to come here to the planning board or not,” Haeuser said. “Still, it’s new and interesting.

“And it gives Hannaford a little extra TV time,” Haeuser joked, motioning to the community television cameras broadcasting the meeting.

Lord said delivery vans would make as many as 12 trips per day to the Philbrook Avenue store from the company warehouse in Scarborough. However, there are no plans to launch home delivery.

“That’s not anything that’s even contemplated. That’s a whole different service,” he said. “But what we are doing, I think it is just the beginning. I think you’re going to see other grocery stores doing this as well.”

The one concern expressed by planning board members was that customers, given an inch on convenience, might take a mile, or, if not a mile, at least 12 feet immediately in front of the store, for quick and easy loading.

“Are you worried about people parking in the fire lane?” asked planning board member Isaac Misiuk.

“I thing that’s something that’s going to be easily controlled if they start to do that,” Lord said.

The only other real critique came from Boudreau, who said the concept as initially understood by Haeuser would actually be more useful to elderly residents of the city.

“I think they would like it better if it was a drive-up,” she said.

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