Marijuana retailers using drive-thru service to help limit contact with customers amid coronavirus

Some cannabis businesses are closing their doors – by choice or order – and they’re relying more on drive-thru windows as a way to better serve customers and avoid spreading coronavirus.

It’s yet another example of how retailers are adapting to cope with the pandemic and keep their marijuana sales on track.

Edgewater, Maryland-based Mana Supply Co., which closed its doors Sunday, spent about $100,000 converting a former bank drive-thru into a secure drive-thru for its dispensary, said Christopher Jensen, the medical marijuana company’s co-founder and CEO.

Mana Supply customers order ahead of time. When they arrive at the dispensary, they press a button on a call box that enables them to show identification cards via video. Mana Supply installed high-resolution cameras inside and outside the enclosures.

After they’re cleared, the customers drive into the bay, the high-speed garage door closes behind them and they push a button on a second call station to have their IDs checked again.

The employee then puts the prefilled order into a drawer and slides it out.

“Last week, we saw between 50% and 60% of transactions happening at the drive-thru,” Jensen said. “We set a high bar for security. We wanted to mimic the dispensary as a secured place for transactions.”

The company’s employees, who already receive rigorous training before assisting customers, were given an additional two hours of instruction so they know how to operate the equipment at the drive-thru.

Meanwhile, Oakland, California-based Harborside hired two more employees and plans to add two temporary workers to handle the volume at its drive-thru marijuana store in Desert Hot Springs, California, said Pedro Fonseca, general manager of the company’s stores.

“We’re treating it just like another cash register,” Fonseca said. “Because of the way we have it designed, it’s the back of the house of our cashier area.

“One person can manage multiple things – they don’t have to be sitting there unless they have customers coming up.”

All of Harborside’s employees have been cross-trained, so it’s a matter of redeploying people into different positions, Fonseca said. As long as employees know and follow guidelines, such as checking IDs before handing over products, they can do any job.

About half the marijuana store’s sales are being done via the drive-thru, up from 8% before the coronavirus pandemic, Fonseca said.

NuWu Cannabis Marketplace is getting up to 2,000 cars a day at its two 24-hour drive-thru locations in Las Vegas – up from about 500 a day on March 19, said Tisha Rorie, manager of the marijuana stores that have been offering drive-thru for the past two years to better serve disabled people.

Rorie estimated there were 200 cars in three bays outside the dispensary on March 23 and that the wait time was up to 45 minutes. Home-delivery service is taking two to three days, she said.

“We have outdoor attendants taking orders, taking cash, bringing orders in (the store) and getting them out within a minute,” Rorie said. “We have 60 people on staff.”

Margaret Jackson can be reached at [email protected]

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.

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