When I worked closely with Savenor’s Market in 2014 during the Cambridge renovation, I was able to be on site part time as I developed some branding strategies and graphic design work. This was incredibly helpful as I could work alongside the staff I was trying to solve problems for. They initially hired me to do basic graphic design work and build them a new website. Turns out they had lots of little things I was happy to help out with, all pushing me towards design solutions that would make sense at a larger scale.
During my first Thanksgiving season with them, they asked me to update their holiday order form. That sounds easy, right? In fact, it lead to MANY more questions:
- Why are you taking orders on a piece of paper? What happens to that paper?
- How do you keep a running tally of what people are ordering?
- How do you know if you’ve run out of turkeys? Or, how do you know how many to order?
- Do you have data on previous holiday orders?
- Isn’t this really time consuming?!
Keep in mind they have been in business for over 75 years. I’m sure paper order forms were a great solution at one point, but now with so much technology available it only made sense to me to try and upgrade their system a bit.
Their old system was something like this: Paper order forms in both stores/PDF on their website > take some tallys by hand/keep in binder? > hand write a large tag for each person’s order > attach to turkey > find turkey for person on pickup day
The PDF on the site also caused a huge headache. Customers were instructed to email it to each store, so typically they would print it out, hand write their order in, scan it and email it. It was generally hard to read (along with all the paper forms from the stores) and opened up a whole different line of communication: email. Hard to manage for a tiny shop with a small staff!
I’ll be honest: I wanted so badly to get rid of that awful paper form once and for all! But that’s not realistic for them, so I worked with it.
In short, here’s what I implemented. They still use this today for all holidays and it’s proven successful!
- Freshly designed paper form in a Google doc format for easy edits. This is for the customer who prefers to fill out their paper form every year. Staff take the form and put them in a folder TO BE ENTERED or DONE if entered online (more on that..)
- Google form on the site, one form per store- which means two generated spreadsheets. Customers use this from home, and paper entries get put in through this form by staff. That way all orders are funneled through the same portal.
The fun stuff:
- Set up automated emails per entry. The customer will get an email immediately with their order, store info, and how to request a change. So even if they leave a paper form in store, so long as we can read their email (sigh) they will be notified. No more wondering if your order was recorded! If they reply to that email is goes to the designated store their ordered from. Staff now manage these inboxes more closely.
- Once the ordering cutoff occurs and all paper forms are entered, I use a plugin called AutoCrat and a custom Google doc template file. The template file maps to each spreadsheet item name (ex. Local Turkey, Cranberry Sauce) and places the entry next to it (number of lb turkey.) AutoCrat generates a Google doc of each entry (customer order) rendering the template into an order tag per entry! No more hand writing tags, and these are WAY easier to read and include important info. We tested a few variations and found adding color helped when quickly scanning tags.
- Print two copies of tags: one goes into a binder, the other printed on waterproof paper gets attached to a turkey/customer order.
- Each year or holiday, all we have to do is edit forms slightly and the rest of the process just does it’s thing.
My first instinct with this was to implement online ordering like a web store. Many other butcher shops handled it this way. The benefit of this is that you can collect a deposit per order. We tried this for one Thanksgiving and while the store looked beautiful (each item had a nice image and description) it was too confusing for the shop to handle in combination with a paper form. Some people paid deposits, some hadn’t, so checking out when they picked up their order was a nightmare. If they paid a deposit we set up a discount code through the POS, but some customers didn’t get their discount due to miscommunication. My approach of combining an old-school ordering method with something higher-tech behind the scenes works well for the current clientele, but of course things could change!