An online family food delivery business set up during Covid-19 has ambitious plans for future development

IT BEGAN as a quick-thinking response to a difficult situation, but Edinburgh Food Delivery is now a successful, fast-growing online supermarket with big plans for the future.

Douglas Smith, who runs the business with his brother Russell and sister-in-law Claire, says the driving force behind the company – which is now making hundreds of deliveries each week – was a desire to keep staff in jobs as the coronavirus outbreak hit.

“Russell and Claire have run the Edinburgh Catering Company since 2013, and they had around 40 weddings and other events booked at the start of lockdown,” says Smith.

“Everything was cancelled. I had a separate online business, so suddenly we had to find a way to keep people working.”

With increasing reports of huge food shortages in supermarkets due to panic buying, the Smiths decided to combine their years of business experience, online expertise, and a large and trusted network of suppliers from across Edinburgh, Perthshire and East Lothian to create a new service.

“In a day, we had come up with a price list for a supermarket-style food delivery service, and put it online,” explains Smith. “The demand was incredible. 

“We took on extra drivers to help us deliver the food, and worked closely with a network of local businesses, including oil producers, jam merchants, meat producers and dairies to provide high-quality fruit, vegetables and other produce.”

As lockdown restrictions eased and shopping habits began to return to normal, the Smiths discovered their customers were not leaving. They have recently made their 5,000th delivery since launching the business in March.

“We have had some fantastic feedback, because people have turned to shopping more locally and I think many of them have been surprised at how much is available on their doorsteps,” says the businessman.

“We knew we had to find premises quickly, and moved in to Covault’s Newbridge storage facility. We took two units to allow us to store everything and have some office space, and that has been fantastic.

“It’s spacious and secure, and is extremely accessible. We put in extra health, safety and hygiene measures during the pandemic, and adhere to strict cleanliness practices at all times.”

With Christmas approaching, Smith has “huge plans” to expand the company’s product ranges.

“We will continue to work with fantastic local businesses and have brought in a development chef to allow us to produce our own ranges,” he adds. “Once the catering company is up and running again, we will be looking at pre-prepared dishes, such as beef wellington, or luxury canapes – something a little bit different that you perhaps cannot get from a typical supermarket.”

In addition to its zero-contact collection service, Edinburgh Food Delivery is eventually hoping to provide a shopping experience at its Covault premises, where customers can drop in to browse the produce on offer.

“That cannot happen at the moment, of course, because of Covid-19 restrictions, but hopefully we will be able to offer it in the future,” says Smith.

The team, which now comprises eight full-time members of staff, has also lined up local breweries and wine suppliers to add licensed goods to the popular service.

“It has been great to see customers coming back to us again and again,” says Smith. “In the early weeks of lockdown, our team spent a lot of time on the phone to older customers who had never ordered online before, talking them through the process.

“Many of them were shielding, or were simply not able to get to a supermarket and it has been good to be able to help them during lockdown, and to keep our staff working. It’s been brilliant.”
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  • This article was brought to you in association with Covault, a partner in The Herald's Entrepreneur campaign