For many Stirling based businesses, COVID-19 has been the toughest challenge they have ever faced. But remarkably amongst all the problems that the pandemic has brought us, some companies have seen their business thrive through innovative change and resilience.
With supply chains already being affected by Brexit, COVID rocked the food industry in terms of availability. Luckily for Blueberry Hill Meals their focus on developing meals that are made from scratch in Stirling using high quality locally sourced ingredients, giving the home-cooked flavour you don’t get from most ready-meals, meant they were in a good position to keep supply chains open.
A family-run company that was established in 2012 by Director Emily Ogilvy in her mum’s kitchen, Blueberry Hill Meals has adapted and thrived despite the pandemic.
Blueberry Hill Meals is a Scottish meal delivery service preparing and cooking a superb range of soups, main meals and desserts from their kitchen in Stirling. The meals are frozen and delivered for free across many parts of Central Scotland by a small team of friendly drivers. The company is passionate about providing people with food that is not only nutritious but also tasty, with that home-cooked flavour sorely missed by so many people.
The company has ten employees, recently growing to hire a new chef and two young people through the new Government Kickstart Scheme.
Director Victoria Lacombe said that she and her business partner (and sister!), Emily, like many small business owners, were extremely concerned about the short and long-term effects of the pandemic…
“It was the unknown factor that we really feared. We knew that our customers would still need us, now more than ever, but we didn’t know whether we would be allowed to stay in our premises and how our staff would feel about continuing to work. Luckily, as a food production company, we were considered an essential service and were permitted to work throughout all lockdowns. Our team could not have worked harder and we cannot thank them enough for the efforts they have put in throughout the crisis.
In an attempt to absorb any losses, we took the time to look at our service, what our customers truly wanted and began adapting our services.
Many of our customers were elderly but we soon realised that there was a perception that we only catered for elderly clients, and in fact, other age groups were actively looking for a local meal delivery service.
This led us to invest in a new website, refreshing our menu choices and introducing a new specials menu based around seasonal food.
At the first lockdown in March everything was an unknown for us. After initially ensuring we communicated with our customers and staff, as an essential business we remained opened and spent time working to ensure our spaces met COVID guidance.
This included introducing contactless delivery, contactless payment methods such as direct debit and phone payments, enhanced hygiene measures for all staff, changes in working patterns to limit the number of kitchen staff working together at any time, and remote and lone working for our office staff and drivers.
When stores began to run out of stock, we became busier than ever. In 2019 we delivered 42.5 thousand meals and in 2020 this increased to 84 thousand.
We have also introduced a new meal box and gift voucher service. We had customers asking if they could order on behalf of a friend who was a new mum and didn’t have the energy to cook, a parent who had just come out of the hospital and needed to rest – not cook meals, a sister who is moving house and is eating their way through junk food or a son who works long shifts and doesn’t have time to cook – so we introduced meal boxes and gift vouchers.
Our meal boxes can be ordered as a one-off or on a more regular basis – it’s completely up to the customer. They contain enough meals (and sweet treats) for a week giving something quick and tasty to pop in the freezer for when you or someone you love needs it.”
Speaking about the challenging year they’ve had Blueberry Hill Meals Stirling Director Victoria said:
“We couldn’t have got through this year without all of our staff and loyal customers supporting us when everyone’s has had a tough year. As a small business, there is many an occasion where you feel inferior to the national firms offering a similar service, however, one thing we have learnt throughout the pandemic is that, as a smaller local business, we can offer something unique and adapt quickly to what our customers need. For example, we offer free delivery employing staff not couriers and our customers can order as and when they need to, they are not committed to ordering each week. We get to know many of our customers very well and look forward to having a wee natter with them on the phone. Our drivers are also very caring individuals and often go out of their way to help the people they deliver to – we’re so lucky to have such a great team working with us and lovely customers who support us time and time again.”
If you would like to find out more about Blueberry Hill Meals and try their meals, they are running an offer for new customers – use code NEW2021 to get £5 off your first order of £20 or more.
Visit their website at https://blueberryhillmeals.co.uk or call on 01786 357 560.