Baldor successfully pivots during the pandemic

baldormix During the first weeks of the coronavirus outbreak when restaurants and other food institutions were forced to close, Baldor Specialty Foods saw 85 percent of its business disappear. It was then that the Bronx, NY-based company decided to temporarily redefine its business model to include home delivery.

“It allowed us to provide a valuable service to consumers—and it literally saved our business,” said Ben Walker, VP of sales and marketing for Baldor Specialty Foods. “During the past five months, our home delivery offerings have expanded to include everything from back to school snacks and cereals to our popular Restaurant Series in New York. Now with restaurants across the Northeast serving a growing number of diners, we are also making sure their needs are met.”

Baldor’s strong digital infrastructure that includes a traditional ecommerce experience coupled with credit card processing and customer service software were the key ingredients in the pivot. 

That coupled with more than 6,000 items in place for customers to choose from made the pivot possible,” Walker said. “We were able to modify the site for consumer delivery quickly and efficiently. Our network of small local farms that we count on to deliver the most unique seasonal items also continues to be a differentiator for us in the marketplace.”

And for restauranteurs, Baldor’s ability to pivot with pack sizes to make ordering minimums more relevant to the current environment has been critically important for restaurant customers.

“Restaurants are struggling because they have lost consistency in their volume from one day to the next so having that flexibility has been very helpful,” Walker said.

Therefore, the biggest buzz for 2020, Walker noted, is how the industry has adjusted to the needs of the pandemic—take out, virtual menus, grocery offerings—all of the things restaurants are doing to make their establishments relevant to customer needs, convenient to new ways of dining and adherent to new safety policies and procedures.

“But at the end of the day, they are in the same neighborhoods helping their communities,” he said. “And we are there with them, supporting their efforts with new items like to-go containers, utensils, sanitizers, and smaller ordering minimums.” 

Looking at what’s been hot in 2020, it’s fairly obvious that products that have been trending for the past several years are not what is trending post-pandemic.

“Specialty produce and goods have increased in popularity over the last several years, but for the past six months during the pandemic, we have seen an increase in center of the plate basics  and pantry staples—things like ground beef and chicken, flour, sugars and yeast,” Walker said. “And in addition to home consumers purchasing these items in large quantities, our restaurants were doubling their purchases, for cooking in the back of house, and supplying take-out customers pantry supplies in newly created retail spaces in the front of the restaurant.”

Outside of coronavirus, the biggest issues for Baldor are the lack of consistency in business today and the uncertainty is labor.  

“With 85 percent of business shutting down and home delivery ramping up and then ramping down, it’s been very hard to get our finger on the pulse of the business,” Walker said. “Now with the business getting closer and closer to normal, it’s been a challenge to find enough drivers to keep up with the growth.”

In the months ahead, Baldor’s key focus will continue to be supporting the efforts of restaurants as they reopen and providing a level of service and flexibility that supports their new way of doing business. 

“We will also continue to support and grow our retail business with our consumer brand Urban Roots as more people are cooking from home,” Walker said. “Baldor is now also in the seafood business. We continue to diversify our product mix and be on the lookout for a new warehouse coming online in the next 12 months.”

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