Raglan Food Co’s Tesh Randall talks about Covid-19 lockdown and the future
What have your main challenges been?
- Loss of sales but not enough to qualify for using the wage subsidy (approx 20% down over April). So we dipped into savings and paid ‘special leave’ ourselves to team members who had reduced hours over Level 4 to help top up their hours. We also offered access to early sick leave and annual leave if needed.
- Restructuring the team into separate ‘crews’ to minimise interactions and create work bubbles.
- Feeling of disconnect that comes from not being able to interact in person with everyone. All meetings done over Zoom. No-one working from the office.
- Some freight delays due to Covid caused a bit of stress on packaging and ingredient supplies.
- Managing our own stress / anxiety levels and working with our other leaders on setting a positive tone for the rest of the team.
- Lots of new information and changes to take in, process, and communicate out to everyone regularly. A lot of time diverted from other projects into Covid-related issues. New policies to put in place with face masks, distancing, rolling breaks, extra sterilising, etc.
- Our new factory build being put on hold for six weeks, putting our build behind schedule and placing more pressure on our existing facility to last longer in the face of capacity constraints.
- NPD being put on hold, likely not able to launch all the new products we’d planned for the rest of the year.
- Lost stock due to cafes etc closing – we got stuck with heaps of food service tubs we could no longer sell. They all got donated to charity.
- Bill payments delayed, some stockists requesting discounts to help with cashflow.
- All upcoming expos and food shows cancelled.
What have your successes been?
- We have been working really well together as a team. There has been more closeness than we had before in many ways, more frequent catch-ups and communication.
- Maintaining continuity of supply in face of stress and challenges. Keeping stock levels up for all the people stuck at home who wanted to continue eating their favourite dairy-free lockdown. It’s been encouraging to hear lovely feedback from these customers.
- More online ordering / home delivery options than before. Now listed with the new Service Foods online supermarket and in progress with others.
- Supplying Civil Defence with yoghurt via a Bidfood catering contract.
- Supporting a lot of local food banks with donations – City Mission, Kaivolution, North Shore Food Bank, Hamilton Christian Foodbank, Student Volunteer Army, etc.
- I organised weekly things to keep everyone’s spirits up – vegan butter chicken ready-to-eat meals for everyone to take home, vegan icecream delivery, healthy lunch deliveries, vegan chocolates for everyone at Easter, etc.
What difference has moving to Level 2 made for you?
It’s so much nicer, it almost feels back to normal! It’s nice greeting people on the streets of Raglan again, being able to pop in and out of the office, and have team meetings in person. We’re back to doing team birthday cakes and after-work drinks on a Friday.
Sales have stabilised – they were really up and down over Level 4 with people stockpiling and then avoiding going out.
It’s great having our cafe and food service customers open again!
We’re back full swing into the new factory build, and can start looking forward to product launches, book meetings and presentations, and get projects moving again which were put on hold.
What (if any) long-term changes do you see yourself making to the way your business operates?
We have decided to maintain the two-crew model so that staff don’t overwork. That gives us more flexibility and cover for annual leave, sick leave, etc as well. We have put a new standard work week of 30-35 hours in place for everyone – the maximum anyone can work now is 40 hours. (Pre-Covid we had some very busy weeks with some team members working 50-60 hours – and even though they enjoyed the higher income levels, we think it’s best for everyone’s long-term wellbeing to limit the amount of available shifts so they don’t overdo it.)
We’re all familiar with Zoom now, so can use that when required.
We will cut back on any unnecessary travel – something we were already working on due to awareness of our carbon footprint.
We will continue supplying the staff room weekly with organic fruit, fresh-pressed juices and vitamin C as everyone appreciated those and it’s good to keep up immunity levels over winter.
We’re very grateful to our team for showing up and getting the job done over lockdown even though there was a lot of uncertainty and worry, especially in the early stages when everyone was afraid of getting sick. So happy that there hasn’t been a single case in Raglan so far! We’re also grateful to all our customers who purchased yoghurt over lockdown and kept us in business.