At some point in the mid-2010’s, Americans started spending more at restaurants and bars than at the grocery store. That trend has now dramatically reversed as the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying lockdowns have forced restaurant-goers to rediscover home cooking.
The meal kit industry has capitalized on this shift, with consumer spending on ready-to-cook food deliveries doubling year-over-year in the month ending April 11. Take New York-based Blue Apron, which has already been reporting growth across key revenue and customer metrics after a disappointing initial public offering in 2017. The company reportedly onboarded 200,000 new customers in the first quarter of this year, prompting a rapid scaling of its meal kit assembly and delivery system while maintaining socially distant working conditions for staff.
In an interview with Built In NYC, CEO Linda Kozlowski explained how reducing the number of menu options in the early days of the pandemic helped Blue Apron ramp production lines to meet demand.
“This allowed us to limit the need to change production lines and gave us more time to pack meal kits as we ramped up headcount at our facilities,” she said.
Several months into this unexpected demand surge, we asked Kozlowski — who previously served as Etsy’s COO before taking the helm at Blue Apron — to reflect on how the company has evolved during the era of COVID-19, and how they’re setting themselves up for long-term success.
How has the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic fallout affected your team's day-to-day operation and focus?
We have seen increased demand for meal kits since late March as a result of the pandemic, with the initial sharp increase in demand at the end of Q1. To meet the new demand, we directed our efforts toward scaling our operations, and in doing so, we simplified our recipe offerings at the outset. This allowed us to limit the need to change production lines and gave us more time to pack meal kits as we ramped up headcount at our facilities.
As we have hired permanent and temporary employees to continue to meet demand, we have begun to introduce variety back into our menus. We aim to serve our customers as safely as possible and continue to focus on our sustainable growth strategy.
We’ve seen more people cooking at home and we expect this to continue for some time.”
How has your organization or product evolved over the last few months?
As the pandemic has progressed, we’ve seen more people cooking at home and we expect this to continue for some time. In addition to providing easy-to-prepare restaurant-style food using high-quality ingredients, we’ve created new premium-style meals. These recipes bring together specialty protein combinations, advanced culinary techniques and unique flavor twists. These were originally only available on our two-serving menu, and we’re thrilled that the whole family can now enjoy this special offering.