The continued legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana throughout the United States has led to an explosion of dispensaries in places where business owners and cannabis entrepreneurs can get their hands on licenses and permits. But differing regulations across states where legalization rollout is underway mean dispensary owners and operators are facing different challenges, depending on where they are located, when it comes to how and what they can do to deliver the best customer experience possible.
My sales and customer experience role at Bavis Fabacraft has put me in front of a lot of dispensary owners and architects across the country, and given me an opportunity to regularly check the pulse of the industry when it comes to their brick-and-mortar approach to retail cannabis sales. With that said, I wanted to share a few of the trends I have noticed in the conversations I have had with our colleagues in cannabis.
No Such Thing as ‘Too Much Security’
Depending on local regulations, as well as the concerns of the dispensary owner, there’s a need for some level of interior security in the “front of the house”, not just behind the counter where money and product are kept. So while it’s not surprising we received inquiries about using our (typically) exterior drive-up window-drawer combination unit inside the store, the volume of inquiries was surprising.
The primary application we’re being asked about is for check-in purposes, prior to the customer entering the store/showroom. What is drawing many dispensaries to this solution is the added protection in the form of bullet-proof glass, combined with drawer access controlled on the “teller” side. It’s a big step up, from a security standpoint, from just having a ticket window or sliding window. At no point is the employee exposed to the customer, even while exchanging IDs or any other items.
There’s Value in Expanding Drive-thru
Lane-one drive-thru is an easy call for most dispensaries, especially when taking over a retrofit building that may have once been a bank or pharmacy. Just pop a window and transaction drawer in the wall and you’re good to go! (Okay, maybe there’s a little more to it, but relatively speaking, it’s a fairly straightforward process). However, I am getting more and more requests for information about second, and even third lane drive-thru solutions. I think for some dispensary owners, the idea seems daunting and costly at first, and then they consider the value add, and it doesn’t make sense not to at least give yourself the option of two- and three-lane drive-thru in the future.
There are two scenarios that come up with this issue: If it’s a retrofit building, in most cases, there was already infrastructure in place for additional lanes. If it’s a new build, it’s cheaper to write it into the plans today than it will be down the road. Considering the growing trend of contactless transactions, even after we move past COVID, it only makes sense to give your business the option, and most of the people I talk to are coming to that conclusion.
Pneumatics or Conveyors for Remote Lane?
When dispensaries decide to add a remote lane to their drive-thru, the question comes up of which solution is best equipped to handle their needs: a pneumatic tube system or a conveyor carrier system. There are a few things to consider here: distance the product needs to travel to reach the customer, and how much product you want to system to carry.
A conveyor system (we sell TransTrax and Captive Carrier) is going to be limited in terms of distance. For our solution, the realistic limit is less than 40 feet. That usually isn’t an issue for most dispensaries, given their size, however it does come up when we’re dealing with some healthcare/pharmacy scenarios. The benefit, if using the Captive Carrier, is the increased capacity. For context, our Captive Carrier can hold a 10” H x 8” W x 6” D jug (fun fact: our engineers standardized around the size of a colonoscopy prep solution bottle). That capacity may be overkill for some dispensaries, maybe not for others.
Pneumatic tube systems are a familiar experience for customers, given their prevalence in banking. It’s a reliable system (as are conveyors) that can be engineered to accommodate most situations, without some of the limitations of a conveyor system. The only real limitation is the capacity of the carrier. It’s not nearly as large as the Captive Carrier used with our TransTrax solution, however, it is suitable for the vast majority of dispensary transactions.
(Note: If you want to get really creative, ask me about our Vittleveyor carrier used by fast food restaurants. It can hold pizza boxes, drinks and more—at once. Imagine the possibilities!)
We’re All Figuring It Out Together!
The big takeaway I have in my work with dispensaries is we’re all figuring this out together. Yes, some baseline expectations and practices have been established, but there’s a lot of room for innovation here that can really elevate the customer experience and create additional value for entrepreneurs. My biggest piece of advice is don’t think that just because you don’t see a solution for your problem, whether it’s for drive-thru or anything else, doesn't mean one doesn't exist. Call a few vendors and see what they can come up with. I know our engineering team loves to get creative with what our systems and products can do. All I can say is, it never hurts to ask!