In commercial kitchens across New England, Market Mobile is a well-known app. Chefs are constantly using its interface to order fresh produce from area farmers. Ever since Farm Fresh Rhode Island released Market Mobile in 2009, the app has connected more than 100 producers to more than 300 customers – mostly grocers, schools, and restaurants.
When the pandemic hit, two things happened: First, wholesale business ground to a halt. After all, if restaurants can’t open, they can’t order stock. Second, hordes of people were stuck at home, afraid to stand in line at their local supermarket, but needing to replenish their pantries.
The solution: Open Market Mobile to retail customers. Extend delivery to residential homes. Turn a wholesale supplier into a personal grocery service.
“That was the instant pivot we had to make,” says Nikki Ayres, sales manager for Market Mobile. “It was a really natural decision. This was a way to keep people fed, and keep them fed safely.”
Today, customers in Providence, Pawtucket, and the East Bay can download the app, quickly set up an account, and fill out an online order form. Each order must total at least $60; if you don’t live in the delivery area, you can arrange curbside pickup at Farm Fresh’s Pawtucket headquarters.
There have been challenges, of course. Delivering to residential streets can be a little trickier than to eateries and dining halls, so the drivers have had to adjust. But for the most part, the Market Mobile transition was quick and painless.
“Nothing about our software really had to change, which was the great part,” says Ayres. “We were already set up to do this. Basically we made our decision on a Monday, and by Wednesday we were processing our first order.”
Farm Fresh is currently delivering to between 500 and 600 customers per week, mostly families and small networks of neighbors and friends. Meanwhile, they are still on schedule to complete their Food Hub, an ambitious 60,000-square-foot complex in the Valley neighborhood. While Farm Fresh hadn’t planned to start home delivery before the pandemic, they now see no reason to stop.
“As long as there is a need for this,” says Ayres, “and as long as our producers want to keep doing this, we do plan to continue.” 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket