When lockdown cut Office Pantry’s revenues by 95 per cent the catering business pivoted to home deliveries. The next step for co-founder Giles Mitchell is exploring how that model works in a post-lockdown world – what does strategic mode look like?
Office Pantry launched delivery service Home Pantry in mid-March. The idea came from a desire to keep staff working and the business running. As Giles explained, Office Pantry’s customers were still there – they had just moved location.
The delivery service was up and running in 24 hours and a website was built in less than a week. Like most businesses that have pivoted, Home Pantry serves the lockdown world perfectly. Now Giles needs to look to the future.
“We’ve been operating Home Pantry in survival mode, rather than strategic mode. We just needed to have the business and the customers to keep as many of our team employed as possible. We need to have more of a strategic play about it going forward,” Giles said.
Utilise existing networks
During lockdown, Home Pantry has proved that its delivery-based model is valuable. The store had 100 customers in its first 24 hours. But Giles knows how stiff the competition is in the food delivery market.
“There’s been an explosion of companies providing home delivery services for food. It’s been phenomenal. It won’t be sustainable for a lot of companies in the long run, particularly those that don’t have a base of customers elsewhere,” he said.
For Home Pantry to remain in the same food delivery space, it will need to compete with larger stores and supermarkets. However, since the company can’t offer the same breadth of items, Giles is leaning towards delivering packages that are more “experiential”.
One of their most popular packages combines elements from both sides of the business: Office Pantry’s network with Home Pantry’s delivery model. Companies can order customised employee care packages that are delivered to staff working at home. Despite lockdown nearing its end, sales of the packages continue to grow.
Keep track of customer demographics
The biggest challenge at the moment is identifying which customers will be buying from the business in six or 12 months’ time.
Home Pantry’s first customers varied from people who couldn’t buy vegetables locally to people who knew Office Pantry and wanted to get the same food at home. Three months later, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint a definitive target market.
“The range of customers you end up speaking to at the moment is so diverse. We’re delivering essentials to people in the most vulnerable bracket of society, where we’re trying to calculate the exact amount of protein they need each week. The next moment we’re delivering to someone at a tech firm who just wants great healthy food and a Sudoku book in their package,” Giles explained.
Let staff run with new ideas
Giles compares the current business environment to the Wild West. No one knows what they’re doing or what the right or wrong thing to do is. He’s using the time to think about how the business could innovate and encouraging staff to run with ideas.
“Once you get into that ‘what’s next?’ phase, that’s when your adrenaline gets going. It’s like you have a blank piece of paper and you can just create. It’s been really fun for our team because we’re letting them run as much as possible. Any idea could be a really great one at the moment,” Giles said.
“We’ve got a couple of other ventures that we’ve started in the last few months that are complementary to our space. It’s been really exciting.”
How is your business emerging from lockdown? Do you have an interesting business model story to tell? We’d love to hear about your experience. Here’s how.