Local Roots NYC Quadruples Delivery Fleet to Feed New Yorkers During COVID-19 Shutdowns

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Prior to COVID-19, Local Roots NYC was predominantly an in-person business. They distributed farm-fresh produce, meats, and local culinary creations to New Yorkers hand-to-hand at cafes, restaurants, and offices around the city. When those pick-up points were suddenly shut down to comply with social distancing, Local Roots NYC had to go all-in on delivery. Over the next few weeks, they used OptimoRoute to quadruple their fleet and respond to a more than 19x increase in delivery demand.

Local Roots NYC Delivers Locally-Sourced Seasonal Food During Lockdown

Local Roots NYC combines the reliability and structure of consumer-supported agriculture (CSA) with the convenience and choice of a farmer’s market, but they’re more than a food distributor. Local Roots NYC provides a sense of community and gathering places where New Yorkers can learn about seasonal crops, connect with local food purveyors in a meaningful way, and share cooking tips with fellow foodies. Up until March, most of their customers would pick up weekly orders in person at offices, cafes, and other brick-and-mortar establishments that hosted distribution points.

“When our pick-up locations started closing down, we quickly needed to find another way to still give people access to really great, flavorful, nutrient-dense food.”
Camryn Hellwarth, Local Roots NYC

Camryn Hellwarth, the director of programming and community engagement for Local Roots NYC, said that “when all those [pick-up locations] started closing down, we really quickly needed to find another way to still give people access to really great, flavorful, nutrient-dense food.” Local Roots had about 48 hours to come up with a new plan, which is when they decided to ramp up delivery and connect with their customers more digitally.

How OptimoRoute Helped Local Roots NYC Scale Delivery Quickly

Before stay-at-home orders began to be implemented in New York, Local Roots had two to three drivers delivering 50 orders just one day per week. With delivery being such a small portion of their business, they were able to plan routes and schedules for drivers manually.

A little over a month later, in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions, they’re planning over 1,000 orders per week (delivering up to 400 orders in a single day using 13 drivers). “We could never have done that if we didn’t have the platform [OptimoRoute] to do it,” Camryn told us.

Using OptimoRoute, Local Roots NYC was able not only to ramp up their delivery at lightning speed, but onboard new drivers, warehouse workers, and product-assembly workers. OptimoRoute gave them the power to quickly calculate the most efficient routes for their growing team of drivers, which meant they had time to focus on important safety strategies, too. They implemented a new contactless delivery process for drivers, made sure all of their team was equipped with masks and gloves, and developed a new packaging system for the foods, which minimized contact even further.

Simplifying order and driver scheduling

Because Local Roots delivers perishable and frozen foods, they rely heavily on the ability to set multiple constraints within OptimoRoute. They not only give specific time windows to customers for their contactless delivery, but Local Roots delivers to each customer on the same day each week. A customer who gets Friday deliveries, for example, always gets Friday deliveries. Any earlier than that, and they’d likely still have food left (so some of it would go to waste); any later, and they wouldn’t have enough food to eat. As a subscription service, consistency is key. OptimoRoute helps Local Roots deliver on time while respecting all of these constraints.

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Offering responsive Tech Support

“When we were choosing which routing service to go with, we asked ourselves, ‘Who has the best customer service? Who can we call right now and ask a question?’ That is why we ended up going with OptimoRoute,”
Camryn Hellwarth, Local Roots NYC

Customer service was a key factor in choosing a routing software, Camryn adds. Having their business change almost overnight, they were faced with routing more deliveries than ever before. “Our learning curve was so steep. We were suddenly faced with having to route hundreds and hundreds of orders. Despite the fact that the OptimoRoute platform is easy to use, we don’t have a whole tech team we can call on for support. So when we were choosing which routing service to go with, we asked ourselves, ‘Who has the best customer service? Who can we call right now and ask a question?’ That is why we ended up going with OptimoRoute,” Camryn told us.

Providing seamless API integration with order-processing software

Combining their existing order software and driver shift schedules, Local Roots NYC was able to integrate OptimoRoute with their order-processing backend easily. After OptimoRoute schedules their delivery routes, the orders are sent back into their processing tool. That way, their drivers know what day they will be working, and their members know which deliveries are going out each day.

Facilitating reverse logistics and recycling efforts

When Local Roots NYC saw that their efforts to minimize contact were resulting in more packaging, they also decided to offer pick-up of certain reusable items to minimize waste.

As Local Roots’ delivery grew, so did the amount of packaging they were using to respect health and safety precautions. To reduce their environmental impact, Local Roots now offers their customers the option to send back packaging, ice packs, silver insulated lining sleeves, and elastic bands. “What we were able to do was have our drivers pick up any recyclable material the following week when they are out on deliveries,” Camryn added.

Facing a New Future Together

Through unprecedented challenges, Local Roots is keeping their customers and the purveyors they support at the forefront of their strategy decisions—and it’s benefiting the entire community. Local Roots NYC has seen increased traffic on their social media channels and is staying connected to customers by sharing recipes and food tips online. Camryn says, “We’ve strengthened our bond, just virtually.”

As summer approaches and warm-weather fruits and veggies become abundant, Local Roots NYC is expecting their demand to rise. They will surely continue to persevere in the face of new and unexpected challenges. For our part, OptimoRoute will continue to provide routing and scheduling support to businesses in New York and across the globe.

If you’re thinking of adding delivery to your business, OptimoRoute can help. We offer a 30-day free trial, and our support team is here to assist if you have any questions along the way.

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