Recently, amidst the chaos and fear brought to the world due to the spread of coronavirus, Edible Brands President Cheikh Mboup took a hard look at the company he leads. Typically, Edible delivers attractive arrangements of diced fruit to customers instead of the more traditional flowers, for occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and corporate events. How could the business not just survive and continue to serve customers but also innovate during this uncertain time, Mboup wondered? Systemwide, sales had been around $600 million prior to the current crisis. 2020 had started off strong for the brand with over double-digit growth in January and the busiest Valentine’s Day in the company’s 20-year history. But as with many other companies, as the coronavirus spread, Edible Brand’s sales immediately started to decline.
The first step was ending delivery fees, including on same-day delivery for any orders placed before 3 pm. However, that wasn’t going to be enough. So, Mboup came up with the idea of creating a CSA-style box of produce. This was a logical solution because vendors already bring in big shipments of fruit to make the Edible arrangements. All they had to do was supplement these with more vegetables than normal. Then, instead of slicing and skewering the fruit into beautiful arrangements, franchisees and employees would break the shipments down and put an assortment of whole fruits and vegetables into smaller boxes.
“As health concerns surrounding COVID-19 grew, we recognized that there would be many people and their loved ones who wouldn’t be able to make it out to their local supermarket to purchase what they need to stay healthy during these uncertain times.” Mboup says. “So, over the course of three days, we launched our initiative to offer a fresh produce basket for customers across our entire network, as well as free delivery. By doing this, our goal is to help alleviate some of the issues someone may face as they continue to stay home right now. We continue to think of ways to help our friends and neighbors live as normal of a life as possible.”
Next, Mboup faced the significant task of getting Edible franchisees on board with his idea. Fortunately, he found the franchisees were extremely supportive of the initiative. They were willing to give it a try, feeling it was good for business and also for customers, because they would be getting them the fresh fruits and vegetables they need to stay healthy.
“Our customers have really responded positively to our free delivery of fresh fruit and vegetable boxes,” said Kyle Dumont, an Edible franchisee in Nashua, New Hampshire, who has been with the company since he was 16 years old. “We’re selling more boxes with each new day. The most rewarding part is knowing that we are brightening the days of those who cannot leave their homes under current conditions. As an Edible franchise owner, I’m proud to be a part of an organization that has found a valuable way to stay open in these uncertain times in order to serve the communities we belong to. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”
Rich Lauria, an Edible franchisee in Rochester, NY, says, “These are challenging times for everyone. Over the course of a week, people’s day-to-day lives have changed dramatically. For all communities, Edible is servicing an important need, now delivering fresh, whole produce to people who are homebound and cannot make it out to the store. Our team has adopted strict procedures for touchless delivery to protect themselves and our recipients. We’ve had a very positive response and feel fortunate that we’re in a position to help as we all work together through this pandemic.”
Here, Mboup offers his tips for successfully pivoting your business in response to coronavirus:
1. Enhance two-way communication. Over the course of the last few weeks, we have been in constant communication with our entire network to ensure everyone is fully aligned. My biggest advice would be to not only stay consistent with communication, but to share risks and act as an entire organization. At Edible, we are fortunate to have franchise partners who are willing to try new things and pivot rapidly.
2. Think about the customer’s needs and how they may have shifted. It’s natural for any organization to proceed with its standard business strategy assuming that it will continue to align with loyal customers’ typical expectations. But during times like this, it’s important to follow what the consumer is needing in response to new circumstances so you can model your business to fulfill those new needs. Thinking about life from the consumer’s point of view will broaden your horizon to identify how your business can innovate to accommodate their needs during difficult moments. This will push you out of your comfort zone in a much-needed way.
3. Focus on finding the light. We are always so caught up in today’s moments, whether good or bad. It’s important for everyone to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. These uncertain times are not going to last forever. Businesses need to ask themselves, “How do we grow from this problem and move forward once the dust settles?” We need to take what we’re being faced with now and apply what we are learning from it in order to move forward and come out in the end as a stronger organization.