Grocery delivery service Instacart recently opened up shop in Chicago, marking its first expansion outside of the Bay Area.
Despite self-described strong unit economics and a service that is quite popular in its home market, the company was slow to expand geographically. Before the Chicago move, if you asked Instacart why, their answer was simple: They wanted to lock down their model before they took it on the road.
Two months in, how is the company doing? Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta told TechCrunch today that his company is now serving more deliveries now in Chicago than they did in their 40th week in the Bay Area.
That doesn’t tell us much, but Mehta did confirm that the company’s overall growth rate is roughly on par with past levels, clocking in at 35% per month. In September, the service claimed it was growing 10% weekly, or around 46% each month.
Instacart plans to “very quickly” expand to new cities. Different locations have different patterns, of course. According to Mehta, whenever the weather is worse in Chicago, order volume goes up. People want to stay inside. That would be less of a problem in, say, Los Angeles.
The company plans to be in 10 markets by the end of 2014. All of Chicagoland, or the Bay Area count as single markets in the firm’s thinking, so by the end of next year, a sizable chunk of the United States population should have access to Instacart’s service. I’m guessing the Seattle area, LA, the New York City sprawl, and so forth. Maybe Boston, and some place in Texas. The company declined to be specific, unsurprisingly.
An obvious next step at that point would be international expansion. The company confirmed that that is something that they have planned. Think late 2014, or early 2015 for Instacart’s jaunt across a border or ocean.
So, what about Trader Joe’s. If you are a long-time Instacart customer you certainly recall the days in which Trader Joe’s was supported. In fact, when the company launched in Chicago, Trader Joe’s was the only available option.
No more. The grocery store has disappeared from Instacart. Mehta told TechCrunch that the companies are a talking. It is unclear if and when Trader Joe’s will return to Instacart. However, the company is delivering booze again, which is more than welcome.
Mehta mentioned inventory concerns as part of the dance with TJ’s. It could be the we lazy schmucks were sucking local stores dry from our keyboards, leaving IRL shoppers in the lurch when it came to organic burritos and cheap wine.
I suspect that this is not the last time that Instacart will have this problem. For now, its time for the company to prove that its model can be quickly applied around this country, and then in far off lands.
Top Image Credit: Flickr