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March 30, 2020updated 31 Mar 2020 12:25pm

Coronavirus case studies: How supplier Foodchain is switching to home delivery

By Lucy Ingham

Even before the UK government ordered the closure of restaurants and cafes to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, the disease was hitting hospitality hard, but for suppliers such as Foodchain, the decision was a major blow.

“Our community is entirely based on supplying restaurants and seeing them all shut their doors one by one was devastating,” says Amelia Christie-Miller, head of sales of marketing at Foodchain.

Used by chefs at some of the UK’s most highly rated restaurants, Foodchain is an app that connects small suppliers with chefs, enabling them to order fresh, high-quality food sourced from specific growers and farmers, which is delivered overnight to their restaurants. The restaurants can then tell their customers exactly where the food they are eating has come from, providing complete supply chain transparency.

But with the coronavirus forcing restaurants to close, Foodchain is suddenly without much of its customer base. However, it saw a new opportunity emerging in the home delivery space.

“Two weeks ago, my flatmate was in isolation after coming back from Italy. She went onto Sainsbury’s website for delivery and couldn’t get one until Tuesday,” explains Christie-Miller.

“Meanwhile, I can get beautiful veg delivered to my door overnight through our app – that’s when I saw the opportunity.”

Foodchain: Switching to home deliveries amid the coronavirus crisis

Foodchain took the decision to open up its platform to consumers, providing support for home delivery, however, there have been challenges posed by the differences in what the average home needs compared to a 200-cover restaurant.

“We’ve built the product to complement a B2B, restaurant account. This means customers have the option to buy 12 balls of London artisan buratta or a sack of onions weighing 20kg – rather than what they need which is small portions of many different products,” says Christie-Miller.

However, the efforts Foodchain has made to adapt to consumer demands during the coronavirus outbreak have so far proved worthwhile.

“It’s so rewarding to see both our suppliers getting traction and the consumers we serve getting produce,” she says.

“So many people are over the moon just to get a nice box of food at their door!”

Transition at Foodchain

On the operational side, Foodchain has not seen a dramatic shift in how it operates, as the company has always been run by a remote team.

However, Christie-Miller says that they have joined many other companies in making considerable use of Zoom, and have also changed how they take payments to better support their new customer base.

“We’ve also started taking STRIPE payments which are more in-line with consumer purchasing.”

But with Foodchain only initially making the switch temporarily during the coronavirus outbreak, could the company make home delivery a permanent part of its offering?

“Potentially – but it depends entirely on whether the virus will have a long-term impact of consumer buying,” says Christie-Miller.

“I think when consumers realise they can get a beautiful box of restaurant-quality veg for the same price as Tescos, delivered to their homes, it’ll be hard to go back to traipsing the aisles of their local store.”

Read more: Coronavirus case studies: How Slerp is helping hospitality pivot to takeaway