Food permits and the new way of grocery shopping

Food Permits and the New Way of Grocery Shopping

Getting groceries seems routine for most Americans.

As kids, it almost seemed an adventure as we tagged along with our parents, walking down endless isles stocked with so many different kinds of food. Now as adults, it’s something we’ve come to do without really thinking too deeply about it.

Make a list. Travel. Collect the goods. Pay. Head home.

But like most sociological habits, while the process remains essentially the same, the details have evolved through the years as norms shift and technology moves forward.

A few generations ago, shopping for food was a daily pattern that started with a walk to the corner grocer, butcher and baker. As time passed, supermarkets replaced mom-and-pop stores.

Now, superstores such as Target, Walmart, Costco, and others like them, have expanded the shopping experience to define modern one-stop purchasing.

Time keeps marching on. And as the economy and shopping habits evolve, the next “normal” in grocery shopping involves pickup and delivery services that would have been unthinkable not long ago outside of large cities.

“Over the past few years, many retailers and restaurants have been reluctant to provide delivery services to cars, homes, and offices,” Express Permits CEO Steve Todd said. “But in more and more parts of the country, businesses have adopted these ideas and are finding great success.”


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Express Permits is working with companies across the country to simplify this policy transition. As retail leaders work to train employees, manage logistics and balance inventory, Todd and his staff use their expertise to identify what types of zoning, building, and health permits are required to incorporate any changes quickly and easily.

For example, zoning laws define how many parking spaces a store must have available to its point-of-purchase customers. If the law sets the minimum at 100, and the current allotment allows for 105, the business basically has three options:

  • Set aside five parking spaces for mobile pickups, leaving the required 100.
  • Redesign its parking area in order to set aside more mobile pickup spaces – which may require the rezoning of the current parking lot design.
  • Petition for zoning variances.

Option 1 is simple in terms of logistics. As Nike says, just do it.

Option 2 will require permit applications in order to change the structure of the parking facility – whether to add more spaces to the available area or extend the parking facility.

Option 3 is the riskiest as it will involve not just the initial paperwork but potentially a lengthy follow-up as well. The applicant may be required to attend multiple public meetings to explain why this redesign is important and beneficial to the community.

All three options, though, will also require additional zoning and health department permits. Even using a third-party home delivery system such as Uber Eats requires permits in many states.

And if the store sells alcohol, that’s another permit from an entirely different government body.

“For food-related orders, health departments will want to know if you are delivering prepackaged food or ready-made food,” Todd said. “It’s completely different rules depending on whether you are delivering a pre-made meal, a wrapped pound of ground beef, or a freshly sliced pound of turkey.”

Building permits will also be required for any alterations to the internal structure. Changes that add a drive through or walk-in coolers are subject to specific local and state codes as well.

Many people have suddenly changed their shopping habits in the wake of the corona virus, but Todd believes pickup and delivery is the future of the grocery business. Express Permits is already working with a Phoenix store that is dividing their building into three separate sections to provide a better online fulfillment process. Express Permits is also assisting chains in Ohio and Texas.

What seems like a simple business decision can quickly get complex as every city, county, and state has its own unique forms to complete.  Additionally, many building, zoning, and health departments were unprepared for this type of new shopping experience – which has left many scrambling to create new codes and business licenses.

Express Permits has the experience to identify, apply, and manage the entire permit process across the continental United States, allowing business to move forward as quickly as local governments allow. Let Express Permits ease this transition for you and get you moving in the 21st century version of a quick trip to the store. Contact us to learn how.

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