click to enlarge Groceries to go
courtesy of Ryan Fernandez
Ryan Fernandez of MenuGem uses bins for "contactless" transfer of groceries to customers.

Not everyone has the privilege of paying extra for grocery delivery. But health experts are telling us, especially those older and the immune compromised, to limit public exposure. So many are turning to online shopping for pick-up and delivery options.

"Online grocery currently comprises a small portion of grocery overall but is on a rapid rise," according to the Business Insider, which noted a more than 100% increase in online grocery orders between 2016 and 2018 and predicts a surge this year, due in part to the pandemic. Springfield residents have a host of options when it comes to online and phone orders for delivery and pick-up, though availability and wait times vary.

Ryan Fernandez's venture is likely the newest option in the Springfield market. He lived in Springfield and graduated from Rochester High School before spending time in Chicago and L.A. He founded MenuGem, an online platform for restaurants to coordinate delivery services. He recently returned to town and launched a delivery service that offers grocery essentials including bread, milk, eggs, toilet paper and cleaners, which he sources from places such as Meijer and Walmart. The website is He promises same-day delivery for orders placed within operating hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and said he updates his website with anticipated wait times. There's a $5.50 delivery fee and $15 minimum purchase.

"All over the country you're hearing about people who are trying to get their groceries but the wait times are awful," said Fernandez. He said he was already planning to bring a grocery delivery service to Springfield before the pandemic because the city is "a good manageable size. It's not too big and it's not too small. There are a lot of grocery stores here." He also chose to relocate due to the city's "strong sense of community." Fernandez's operation is strictly delivery, different from pick-up options where customers can order items ahead of time and then retrieve them inside a store or have an employee to run the purchase to their vehicle.

Several grocers in town, including Schnucks, AIdi, Hy-Vee and County Market, use larger online services such as DoorDash and Instacart to manage delivery orders. Orders can take multiple days, and availability is not always guaranteed. As an automated Schnucks message says on the store's phone line, items are regularly being restocked, but availability is subject to change. Pick-up orders can also be subject to multi-day wait times.

An Instacart spokesperson said in an email that the company is seeing its highest ever customer demand and that the size of orders is also growing. "Based on the current surge in demand, customers can expect to see delivery availability vary across stores." On April 23, the company announced plans to hire 250,000 more shoppers in an effort to "return to 1-hour and same-day service levels."

Smaller independent businesses in Springfield are offering pick-up options, including Food Fantasies (1512 Wabash Ave.), where most orders can be fulfilled within the same day. Customers can order and pay over the phone. Country Market (1610 Wabash Ave.) offers pick-up as well. Orders are generally ready on the same day. Humphrey's Market (1821 S 15th St.) also offers pick-up. The small grocer offers delivery for a fee of $8 as well. Wait times differ and can range between same-day to three days.

Beth Langen of Springfield is recovering from a battle with the flu and pneumonia that required hospitalization from late January into February. The illness left her needing to avoid going out. She's used online ordering to get groceries from Schnucks with success, waiting a day or two for an order large enough for her to stock up on staples.

She's now a customer of Just Right Eating (3047 Hedley Rd.), a Springfield business that offers pre-made meals and a la carte items for pick-up or delivery. It's how she gets her lunch and dinners. Dominic Podeschi is the general manager there and said the business has seen a slight decrease in orders since the coronavirus outbreak. It's had to shut down its dining room. But, like with other area restaurants, deliveries and pick-up orders are offered on a regular basis.

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