Kroger Uses Infrared Cameras To Cut Customer Wait Times

My first job was at a mom-and-pop grocery store. We normally had only one checkout line open, but if things backed up, someone would just hop on the other register and the logjam would ease. Seems like a simple enough concept, but apparently too simple for a supermarket chain like Kroger, which has turned to high-tech infrared cameras to improve its customers’ wait times.

As described by the Wall Street Journal, these cameras are constantly monitoring and tracking the customers waiting to check out, then determining the optimal number of registers that need to be running in 30-minute increments. The software displays the suggested cashier usage on a monitor, allowing supervisors to deploy staff accordingly.

And the supermarket chain says it’s worked, with average wait times down to only 26 seconds from four minutes in 2010. The company also says data from the camera tests found that “express” lanes were clogging up in the morning and at lunch, when customers were buying only a few items at a time. Using this info, the chain opened up an additional 2,000 express lanes in its stores.

“The technology enabled us to execute at the front of the store without that additional (labor) expense,” explains Kroger’s Sr. VP of retail operations to the Journal.”It’s remarkable that we’ve been able to improve execution as much as we have without a big price tag.”

The system is being used in about 95% of Kroger stores in the U.S.