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Chartwells Debuts Checkout-Free C-Store at University of Houston

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The convenience store experience just got more convenient at Chartwells, a division of Compass Group that operates thousands of stores on college and corporate campuses. The retailer recently debuted its first store to be retrofitted with checkout-free technology at the University of Houston campus.

Cashierless experiences started picking up speed even prior to the pandemic, with retailers such as Amazon Go, 7-Eleven and other c-stores pioneering the space. Earlier this year, Amazon announced it would sell its Just Walk Out technology to other retailers, and hospitality group OTG became the first to deploy it in select CIBO Express Gourmet Markets in airports. Cashierless solution providers want to make it easier for retailers to embrace checkout-free stores by providing  with the ability to retrofit existing locations versus building from scratch.

The university’s “Market Next” at Technology Bridge c-store was updated with an AI-powered platform from autonomous checkout startup Standard to create a touchless, cashierless experience that is open 24 hours a day. Students can walk in, take what they like and simply walk out without ever needing to scan anything or wait in line to pay. The Market Next store was transformed with Standard’s ceiling-mounted cameras and its proprietary AI and machine-vision software, which associates each shopper with the items they pick up to purchase (without using biometric data). Additionally, the platform integrates with Chartwells’ existing mobile ordering app for a seamless payment experience.   

“Over the years, we’ve implemented several new technologies on campus, from salad robots and autonomous delivery to an app that places mobile orders,” said David Riddle, VP of Operations for Chartwells Higher Ed, District Manager for UH System Dining, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our students embrace new tech and Market Next was a logical next step. Students like it, because it saves them time. They understand the safety side of it, but to them what’s most important is speed and convenience.

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“Partnering with Standard to create this experience for our students made the most sense, because we didn’t need to do a massive renovation,” Riddle added. “We took their solution and applied it to our current footprint, which was incredibly beneficial and certainly sped adoption. We’re looking to retrofit other stores across campus now.”

Chartwells is actively working with Standard to retrofit stores across North America, including locations in North Carolina and Ontario, Canada.  

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