Wholesale grocer pivots to offer robust home delivery service


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Challenge: COVID-19 causes major slowdown in wholesale grocery business but results in an unprecedented surge in demand for grocery home delivery services in the Greater Toronto Area.

Solution: Bondi Produce pivots to offer home delivery, implementing delivery management platform Routific to meet demand.

Results: Routing technology enables Bondi to shave 1 hour off each delivery route. A new opportunity gives local business a COVID-19 comeback.

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As restaurants and food service businesses began shutting down in March 2020, Toronto-based Bondi Produce saw their business grind to a halt. Determined to stop the bleeding, the wholesale grocer built a new website and online store, uploaded their online catalogue, and retrofitted the back of the wholesale warehouse to house grocery and home delivery items – all within two weeks.

Bondi Produce home delivery truck
Photo credit: Julianna D’Urzo

Then came the flood of home delivery requests. The demand was staggering, leaving the team at Bondi Produce to figure out how they were going to route the hundreds of home delivery orders coming in from all across the city.

Having turned to technology before, Bondi began using Routific’s delivery management platform which, at the click of a button, allowed them to plan and optimize those delivery routes within minutes.

Humble beginnings

Bondi Produce founder Ignazio BondiBondi Produce was founded in 1976 by Ignazio Bondi, an Italian immigrant from Sicily who began selling produce door-to-door from the back of his car. 

Soon, produce deliveries couldn’t fit in the car, so he bought a truck. And when the truck was no longer big enough, he converted the three car garage of his home into a refrigerated warehousing facility. He worked around the clock, delivering seven days a week, including holidays.

Three generations later, Bondi Produce is one of the largest food distribution companies in the Greater Toronto Area, and sources products from over 300 farms around the globe. 

A COVID-19 curveball

When COVID-19 hit, Bondi’s main sources of business – restaurants and hospitality food service businesses – were forced to close their doors.

“Our business took a big hit,” said warehouse supervisor Claudio Bondi. “We locked ourselves in a boardroom and said ‘How can we stop the bleeding?’ We had always wanted to get into home delivery and expand our product range, and this was our chance to test those waters.”

Within two weeks, they built a new website, spun up an online store using Shopify, uploaded their online catalogue, and retrofitted the back of the wholesale warehouse to house grocery and home delivery items. The last piece of the puzzle was adopting delivery management software to help them manage the hundreds of home delivery requests that came flooding in from all across the city as people refrained from visiting stores and instead stayed at home.

“Right off the bat, it was a huge hit,” Bondi said. “We weren’t expecting the demand to be what it was, and we found ourselves stuck in terms of routing. But we found Routific, and it allows us to plug a list of delivery addresses and with one click, it does all the work for me. It’s incredibly user-friendly, and we’re just loving it.”

We have shaved off as much as 1 hour of time on each route because the routes are optimized so efficiently versus manually routing we were doing prior to Routific. Drivers are now taking the most direct and logical path in their routes.

Claudio Bondi

Warehouse Supervisor at Bondi Produce

Modernizing an old-school business

Bondi Produce has long been a pioneer in their adoption of technology to help streamline their internal processes, both inside and outside the walls of their 28,000 square foot grocery warehouse.

They were one of the first wholesale grocers in the area to implement warehouse management systems, RF scanning devices, and an ERP system in order to meticulously track the movement of goods in and out of their warehouse facility. While they’ve always been tech savvy within the four walls of the warehouse, COVID-19 and the demand for a robust home delivery service forced Bondi Produce to look at automating and optimizing processes outside the four walls as well.

“In the past, the process to fulfill orders was completely done with pen and paper,” explained Bondi. 

“People would call and leave their orders in a voicemail, and someone would write that order on a piece of paper. That paper was then handed to someone else who would then go and pick the produce and put little X’s beside what he was picking. Another piece of paper would be used to write where the truck should go to make the delivery. Many grocery companies are still stuck in the past. But we’ve learned that technology can really give your business an advantage over those who are still stuck in those old ways.”

The road ahead

Claudio Bondi of Bondi Produce
Claudio Bondi, warehouse supervisor at Bondi Produce.

As the pandemic rages on, Bondi Produce plans to ramp up their home delivery service, and they continue to count their blessings.

“At the end of the day, we’re lucky to be in an industry that is providing an essential service to people,” Bondi said. “It’s a necessity in life to have food on the table, so I tell our team that we have to be grateful and not take anything for granted. Life is going to throw you curveballs, but it’s up to us to innovate, adapt, and find new opportunities to thrive.”

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