Levy and ExCel London launch AI-powered checkout-free store

22 May 2023 by
Levy and ExCel London launch AI-powered checkout-free store

Visitors to ExCel London are now able to purchase food, drinks and other essentials in an artifical intelligence (AI)-powered checkout-free store, the first of its kind to open in a UK event space.

The ‘Market Express' store opened today (22 May) at ExCel London, which is the largest events venue in the city with 4m annual visitors.

The shop has been launched by the event space in conjunction with Levy UK + Ireland, ExCel's long-standing caterer partner.

It is powered by Amazon's Just Walk Out technology, the combination of AI, computer vision and sensor-driven data used in Amazon Fresh stores.

Visitors to the store simply tap their payment card or mobile wallet on a digital turnstile upon entry, before browsing aisles stocked with baked goods, snacks and convenience items, fridges filled with drinks, salads and sandwiches, hot drinks and grab-and-go hot meals.

The technology detects what is picked up and put into the virtual basket or returned to its shelves, ensuring that customers are only charged for what they take with them.

Upon leaving the shop, customers have an option to enter their email address in order to then receive a receipt, or to simply walk out.

Rak Kalidas, MD of BUILT by Levy, said the aim was to simplify and speed up the shopping experience for time-pressed customers.

The store had opened after a four-week testing process, he said, during which the team focused on "almost breaking the system" and tweaking aspects until they had achieved a smooth-running customer experience.

"There are lots of learnings from stores like this, which have been built with Amazon before. So they have a lot of intelligence around what works and what doesn't," Kalidas said.

"It's then mapping it out into the footprint we have here today, making sure that the alignment with the product, the cameras, the reporting, the gate, the credit card, that everything works seamlessly to make sure that the ‘checkout free' experience is truly checkout free."

Contract caterer Levy, which is part of Compass Group UK & Ireland, has partnered with ExCeL London since 2000 and provides food and drink for conferences, events, hospitality and retail sales.

The two businesses shared a "passion and commitment" to sustainability, demonstrated through Levy's 2027 Climate Net Zero goals. These include using non-air-freight fruit and vegetables, seasonal menus and consumer-facing carbon-labelling.

Levy is not the first foodservice company to make use of Amazon's Just Walk Out technology. Earlier this year foodservice provider BaxterStorey announced it was partnering with Amazon to open Social Bee, a checkout-free micro supermarket at Amazon's east London headquarters.

Social Bee offers grocery products, grab-and-go items as well as ready meals prepared on site by BaxterStorey's chef team.

And in April, contract caterer Aramark announced it had launched its first artificial intelligence AI-powered Quick Eats shop in Scotland.

It is the third Quick Eats store to deploy the technology worldwide, with the first two having opened in Germany and Chile.

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