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How Switching to Direct-to-Consumer Helped Company Bakery Survive COVID-19

A look at how Company Bakery used Circuit’s route planning tool to successfully add a direct-to-consumer option to its business.

Over the past three years, Ben Reade and his fellow partners built Company Bakery into a successful wholesale provider of freshly made sourdough bread in Edinburgh. They had three on-staff drivers making daily stops to restaurants, cafes, and bars.

But Company Bakery’s entire business model was challenged by the spread of COVID-19. As Edinburgh went into lockdown, the restaurants, cafes, and bars weren’t open to the public, so no one was ordering any bread. Sales naturally plummeted.

That’s when Ben knew he needed to change how they handled their business, or in a short while, there wouldn’t be a business left to handle. He started working out how to offer a direct-to-consumer option to sell his bread to customers who were social-distancing, or to those who just wanted the convenience of bread delivered straight to their door.

Ben and the other stakeholders in Company Bakery had a strong network throughout Edinburgh. They used word-of-mouth and social media to get the word out that they were offering local delivery directly to their customers.

But this new avenue of business opened up a further need for Ben and his team: route management and route planning. When Company Bakery was solely a wholesale provider, Ben didn’t need a route management tool, as his team could handle the habitual stops of their B2B customers.

Plus, as a wholesaler, you’re delivering higher-quantity orders to fewer locations. But when you’re delivering directly to individual customers, you’re completing more stops to a more diverse group of addresses.

Ben needed a tool that would let him plan his routes quickly and send his drivers on an optimized route so they could complete as many stops in a day as possible.

Not using Circuit for Teams? If you manage a team of drivers and want a simple, cost-effective way to keep track of them (while making their routes more efficient), sign up for a free trial of Circuit for Teams.

How Ben Used Circuit for Teams to Help Company Bakery Transition into a B2C Business

As Company Bakery switched its focus to direct-to-consumer, Ben saw demand increase dramatically. Company Bakery went from being solely a B2B bread wholesaler to managing roughly 4,000 direct-to-consumer deliveries a month — that averages out to 142 stops per day.

Company Bakery Baguette

When looking at how to handle this surge in deliveries, Ben researched route planning tools because he wanted a solution that let him use his own in-house team as the delivery drivers. That’s how he found Circuit.

Circuit seemed intuitive and easier to use than the other brands I was considering. You don’t need a strong understanding of computers or software to plan your routes. You can get started making deliveries immediately.

When planning routes, Ben downloads the customer data from Shopify, makes any changes as necessary to the customer addresses in the Excel file, and then imports that file into Circuit. If there’s any extra information needed for the driver, he adds it to the notes section attached to each stop.

To help keep costs down, Ben and his team do deliveries by area. For example, customers in southwest Edinburgh get their bread delivered on Mondays, while northwest Edinburgh customers get their orders on Sundays.

Company Bakery: Going Forward

Being able to add a direct-to-consumer option to Company Bakery has been the difference between having a business and not having a business,” Ben said. “It enabled us to survive.

But more than just survival, Ben and Company Bakery have seen significant success in delivering their bread directly to a customer’s home.

As stay-at-home orders are being lifted, businesses are cautiously re-opening throughout the city. There has been an increase in Company Bakery’s B2B orders, but Ben doesn’t plan on discontinuing direct-to-consumer deliveries.

He sees this new revenue stream as both essential to his business and a way to help others. Ben has plans to use his delivery van and delivery process to assist other local businesses who may want to offer local delivery but lack the resources and tools to do so.

With a delivery team and process in place, we’d like to help other businesses. We know it can be difficult for small businesses to secure viable contracts with courier businesses.

Company Bakery Update

We caught up recently with Ben from Company Bakery and told us that now the shops and restaurants have reopened and the business’ wholesale arm is back up and running.

However, Company Bakery has not stopped home delivery. Demand remains for both services with home delivery customers still choosing the convenience of a freshly baked loaf of bread being dropped on the doorstep. Instead, the pandemic has meant that Company Bakery now has a dual approach – 10% of the business is now focussed on home delivery.

Because of our positive experience with using Circuit for Teams we are now also using it to design routes for our wholesale drops. We might deliver to 130 customers in the city and further afield on a given day, many of them with tight time-sensitivity, so organising our drivers efficiently is paramount.

While the pandemic has caused huge stress for the hospitality industry some businesses such as Company Bakery have thrived and used these unforeseen circumstances to expand their operations setting themselves up for future success.

So, [when] I last spoke to circuit about our case, [the] wholesale business has really picked up. Although home deliveries are about 10% of our business at the moment, and we are still delivering considerable numbers to homes.Because of our positive experience with using Circuit for Teams we are now using it to design routes for our wholesale drops. We might deliver to 130 customers in the city and further afield on a given day, many of them with tight time-sensitivity, so organizing our drivers efficiently is paramount.We use Circuit for Teams in different ways, sometimes for drivers to use the Circuit for Teams app, sometimes to understand the flow of deliveries better before giving drivers the packing manifests without them necessarily using the app.

Not using Circuit for Teams? If you manage a team of drivers and want a simple, cost-effective way to keep track of them (while making their routes more efficient), sign up for a free trial of Circuit for Teams.

Published13 August 2020
Updated8 November 2021
AuthorDavid Klose
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About the author

David KloseContributor

David is a content writer based out of Phoenix, Arizona. He has written for SaaS and e-commerce companies, as well as several mattress blogs. His work on sleep health has been featured on Today.com and Yahoo! Lifestyle.

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