Foul weather, food waste and FareShare

December 2010

We had to cancel a number of orders last week due to severe weather, leaving us with a lot of undelivered groceries on our hands. Unfortunately, our Company shop – where we usually sell food that is still in date, but too close to its ‘use-by’ date to deliver to customers – was snowed in.

So, what could we do? If you’re a regular reader of The Ocado Way, you’ll know that we take the issue of food waste incredibly seriously. Although there were millions of other pressing things to think about, it was really important that the food didn’t end up in the bin.

We did some research and came up with a name: FareShare, a community food network. They took delivery of our surplus food and, as I write, volunteers are busy in the depot sorting the food so it can be delivered over the next few days to organisations in London which support homeless and other vulnerable people. As Maria at FareShare said: “it will make a difference”.

For all of us here, it’s great to know that this food isn’t going to be wasted and will benefit people who need it instead of ending up in landfill.

Jason Gissing
Ocado Co-Founder

Snow business

101203_snow_blogDecember 2010

Just catching our breath to talk about what has been happening this week. In case you’ve been spared the worst of the snowy weather, some pretty horrendous conditions wrought havoc across large parts of the UK.

Obviously, severe weather hits every business hard – some of our competitors have been out of action all week! – but unlike other large grocery retailers, we don’t operate a string of stores across the country. This has many benefits (our food is kept in optimum conditions in our climate-controlled Customer Fulfilment Centre; supermarkets guzzle huge amounts of energy, to name but two) but means that we are reliant on roads to transport groceries from the CFC to our regional spokes and, ultimately, to our customers.

Unfortunately, this can put us at a disadvantage when major routes are impassable due to severe weather, and that’s exactly what happened this week. Our whole delivery fleet has been fitted with snow tyres, which helped, but despite a huge amount of preparation and some heroic efforts by our brave drivers and customer service staff, the weather got the better of us in some unexpected areas like Kent and Sussex.

What was particularly frustrating for some customers was that they couldn’t see heavy snow where they lived, so couldn’t perhaps appreciate that our drivers were battling on ungritted or uncleared roads en route to them. In circumstances like that, facing heavy snow, icy roads and traffic accidents, we are in the hands of the gods.

Our mission is to deliver groceries in perfect condition and on time, and we take every delayed or cancelled delivery personally. As we say in our severe weather delivery promise (or ‘snow charter’), we do everything possible to deliver an order, and never delay or cancel orders without good reason. This week, we’ve had a team of people wired into the Met Office, staff working through their rostered holidays and head office staff pitching in to help our Customer Service team to call or email every affected customer.

We’re constantly finding new ways to do things better, but it has been a tough week all the same and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet, with more challenging weather on its way. We know many people might wish for a white Christmas but – guess what? – everyone here is praying for a long spell of midwinter sunshine over the next few weeks!

Jason Gissing
Ocado Co-Founder