COVID-19 hero: Lean Lunch

The unexpected arrival of COVID-19 has resulted in unforeseen changes for every business, regardless of industry or geographical location. While 5% of UK-based small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have already decided to close their businesses, others have been able to adjust to trading during COVID-19 with 18% SMEs reporting that they would be trading normally should lockdown be extended another two weeks, up from 14% (source: CFN).

In our darwinian world, businesses become survivors by demonstrating their adaptability to adjust when conditions change. We will explore this idea by looking at the UK SMEs who are facing the storm head on – embracing the change, pivoting their business models, and moving rapidly to meet the needs of their existing and new customers in a lockdown environment.

In the UK, this shift to adapt is particularly noticeable in the food and drink industry. While some businesses have been forced to close their doors during lockdown, many small cafes, bars, and restaurants have decided to pivot to a delivery-first offering.

One such company is Leeds-based online food delivery business Lean Lunch, who aim to deliver well-being in the workplace through nutritious food for meetings, events and employee lunches. The founder Sat Mann explained their immediate concern on hearing the restrictions that lockdown would have on their clientele. Following the announcement that offices across the UK should be closed, their orders dried up instantly. 

“Our initial thoughts were of cost cutting measures to protect cash flow and ensure we could survive a shutdown. However 24 hours later amongst the onset of panic buying, we decided to pivot our model to home delivery, realising that access to food would be crucial for people who were working from home, isolating, or elderly.”

This decision to change their business model required some rapid decisions. They furloughed half of their workforce and started to plan their approach to distributing boxes of groceries and nutritious ready-made lunches to the general public.

This huge shift required a whole host of logistical changes to be identified and rolled out, including fulfilling orders to disparate residential addresses, rather than their city centre office regulars. To manage the logistics of this process, they deployed a third-party app which automated the scheduling and optimisation of deliveries.

Although it has been a challenging process, Sat and the team are delighted to see the positive outcomes of their work:

“One of the major benefits for those left working has been the sense of purpose we feel amidst the crisis. This has been reinforced by the feedback received from customers who have offered kind words of appreciation. We’ve also worked with a client of ours on a fundraising campaign so that we can produce meals at cost for local NHS workers and vulnerable people. This has so far raised over £3,000 which will equate to over 1,000 free meals. It’s hard to know what this means for our brand longer term but we are already looking at how we broaden and refine our product offering for the home market.”

The businesses highlighted in this spotlight series, and businesses like them, make up the lifeblood of the UK economy. It is up to us as consumers to explore how we can support those small companies making a difference. If you live in the Leeds area, consider shopping small and take a look at Lean Lunch’s range of options from delicious pre-prepared meals to fresh grocery bundles. 

Follow Qadre on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates from our COVID-19 spotlight series. If you know any small businesses that you think should be profiled in this spotlight series, then nominate them by tweeting at us! 

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