Empowering the Freelance Economy

Same-day grocery delivery – a market opp for freelancers, contractors and recruiters

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The technology and customer service experience behind grocery delivery businesses and apps could spur job opportunities for freelancers, contractors and agency workers in the UK.

One player, in particular, goPuff, a US-based 30-minutes-or-less delivery service, could soon dominate the UK market when it expands to Europe later this year. That is if the $8bn heavyweight completes its potential acquisition of the UK’s Fancy Delivery or another target. This week, however, goPuff announced that it was entering a partnership with Uber Technologies Inc to expand the delivery of essential items in the US. Could they do the same in the UK?

Freelancers, contractors and recruiters: why should they target the grocery delivery sector?

In the US, goPuff has a self-employed or contractor worker model for its drivers, so if it replicates that employment model over the pond, it will have to comply with the latest UK pay rates and working conditions. That said, it will also require a host of skill sets to scale up across the UK from marketing, web design and infrastructure, warehouse and dark store refits, UX, cybersecurity, human resources, the list goes on. Hello, freelancers, contractors and recruiters?

The Softbank-backed end-to-end supply chain includes a fleet of in-house trucks, micro-fulfilment centres, and product suppliers that delivers to 650 cities. Comparatively, its UK acquisition target, Fancy, operates in just 4 cities, according to a report by The Hustle. A scale-up plan would likely be on the cards. Hello, local produce suppliers, drivers, UX software specialists, marketing consultants, content providers, SEO freelancers, facilities management professionals?

News of the US business arriving on our shores could have small localised players quaking in their boots. Startups that saw record customer acquisitions over the pandemic, such as the UK’s Beelivery in addition to London’s Weezy and Dija, Berlin’s Gorillas, and France’s Cajoo will have to up their game. That could be through premium customer service, discounts, coupons, free delivery, product diversification or partnering. But unlike these much smaller and localised delivery companies, goPuff is a go big or go home kind of business. It will need many hands on deck to make its leap to Europe a success.

If you are the owner of a small business outside of a major city, such as London, Bristol or Manchester that pivoted (oh yeah, we’re using this 2020 catchphrase) to a home delivery model over the pandemic, you should see goPuff’s entry into Europe as a wakeup call. Now would be an optimal time to build your customer base in your local area and provide unique fresh produce, products and services that the competition isn’t offering. Freelancers, small businesses and suppliers should work in tandem on scale-up projects and start to do their research and pitches now.

Case study: The Heritage Fine Food Company

When you hear Ken Mortimer’s story, you get the feeling he is a make lemonade when life gives you lemons kind of guy. The Managing Director of The Heritage Fine Food Company started his career as a grower in Bromham, Wiltshire when he was 20 years old. Once he experienced the value of good produce and the power of Broham’s rich soil, he would later go on to open 37 greengrocery shops with his brother Neil.

The venture took a turn, though. Mortimer would have to re-think his future when the shops all closed in the 1990s as food shopping moved to out-of-town supermarkets.  At that point, Mortimer moved into wholesale supplying restaurants, cafes, care homes and schools. Then in 2005 the 5adaybox – fruit and veg box delivery service was born.

“I still find the industry exciting after 50 years because nothing stays the same for 5 minutes and every day’s a school day,” says Mortimer.

If you were to venture to the company’s headquarters and warehouse, situated down a sleepy country lane in the village of Coate, just outside the market town of Devizes, you would think you’d gone back in time. Save for the locals on their mobile phones and the modern cars passing.

As you approach the premises you come across a makeshift sign warning you to slow down. There’s a good reason for that. You soon start to navigate chickens crossing the lane and a peacock emerging in dance as he exits from one of the outbuildings. But if you’re lucky you just might meet some of Coate’s most famous residents, the cheeky farm dogs, that ramble and act as occasional door greeters to the neighbouring butcher at Lowerfields farm, one of Mortimer’s meat suppliers.

How to build a local network: source and partner locally

Mortimer says the family business has a fantastic relationship with local growers, farmers, artisans and suppliers, giving them a varied supply of seasonal and fresh produce throughout the year.

“Wherever possible we will source something from the South West or the UK, supporting local producers is extremely important to us. When we are forced to look further afield, we like to make sure we know that what we are buying is great quality and is grown in a socially and environmentally friendly way,” he says.

“All our set boxes take advantage of local and seasonal produce and contents will vary each week. As longstanding suppliers to the catering trade we know what’s in season and can supply it at competitive prices,” says Mortimer, who procures a large percentage of the company’s fresh vegetables from Mr Paget in Bromham, a childhood friend.

Local artisans, the world’s original side hustlers, including the honey producer just down the road, are always keen to showcase and sell local.

A lockdown lifeline

Despite the sleepy rural village location (with enviable cricket grounds), the company amped its digital presence during the pandemic to keep workers and the community safe. With additional delivery slots and contactless collection services in place from their warehouse, they also threw in a perk: all deliveries are FREE with drivers trained in contactless delivery. 

Customers can usually choose a delivery date within 2 days of placing an order or can click and collect with contactless collection within two hours on the same day or a time/date to suit (this excludes meat and fish which needs two days’ notice – there are currently no deliveries on a Sunday or Monday).

The click and collect is a simple and straight forward process. Just place your order with the date (same day pick up available on most produce), time and car reg for pick up, reverse into a loading bay, hoot your horn and a member of staff will come out and place your shopping in the boot of your car.

Sustainability as a service

If you are a freelancer that has a passion for sustainability, then make that crystal clear to small businesses in your area and present or pitch to them how you could boost their environmental, social and governance capabilities to attract new customers and prepare for the government’s green agenda.

Setting up a sustainable procurement plan to reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle wherever possible can be a game-changer for small businesses. Promoting these values is also important for a company’s brand image. The Heritage Fine Food Company already has its sustainability steps in place.

Partnering leads to great things: Marco Pierre White

At the end of 2020, Mortimer’s business started working closely with the chef and restauranteur Marco Pierre White. The company supplies a large number of his restaurants across the South West, as well as his very own hotel/restaurant The Rudloe Arms, based in Corsham.  In February 2021 White filmed BBC Maestro episodes and The Heritage Fine Food Company’s produce was used. 

Some benefits and tips when running a local grocery delivery business:

 Support local farmers, suppliers and artisans with seasonal produce, always fresh.
 Free contactless delivery with friendly, helpful drivers.
 Act as a lifeline for those self-isolating and those not wanting to visit a supermarket.
 Offer a wider choice of produce, often unavailable from supermarkets.
 Supply farm to fork quality produce at competitive prices. 
 Choice of different sized boxes with swap and shop function. 
 Free recipe suggestions and magazines. 
  Cut food miles so better for the environment.
  be a socially responsible company who cares for its community. 
Source: The Heritage Fine Food Company; The 5 A Day Food Box

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