This is a value-based business wanting to give back to the community... After four years, they got to one million lunches
Eat My Lunch, founded in 2015 by Lisa King and Mike Meredith, operates on the concept of around a ‘buy one, give one’.
This means for every lunch that is bought, lunch will be given to a child who would otherwise go without.
The social enterprise started out of a residential villa in Auckland, with a very light digital footprint.
When the wider community heard about the programme, however, the concept grew very quickly.
Two or three months into its operations, Eat My Lunch was already realising its two-year forecast, shares Alan McMurtry, business development director at ClearPoint.
The technology services provider was one of the early customers of Eat My Lunch.
“We approached them and said, ‘we might be able to help’,” he relates.
He explains like most small enterprises, Eat My Lunch (EML) started with a simple online ordering website.
When they started to grow and exceed operating expectations, they needed a more adaptable and scalable digital solution.
He says with more customers ordering lunches, more schools and numbers of children could be taken on as part of the programme.
“They needed to scale, to be able to cope with peaks and troughs,” explains McMurtry.
At the moment, he says, EML provides lunches for schools in Auckland and Wellington.
“They do not know how many schools are going to come on board, and how far and wide they are going to get. They want to cover the whole of New Zealand as much as they can.”
He adds, “But how can they cope if they do not have the right infrastructure?”
Starting from scratch
A robust solution was needed that could grow with EML, and that could streamline their processes to save time and money, says Cristy Spencer, head of marketing at ClearPoint.
She says ClearPoint’s initial task was to assess the existing system and see whether it could be adjusted to manage the changes needed to keep the business moving forward.
This meant reducing turnaround times, and having the ability to accommodate new products, order management and integration capabilities.
“It was not possible to continue working with the current software they had in place, they needed to start from scratch,” she tells CIO New Zealand.
They needed to scale, to be able to cope with peaks and troughs… But how can they cope if they do not have the right infrastructure?
“The first thing we want to do is make them safe,” states McMurtry.
He explains ClearPoint ported all of EML’s online systems to Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Then they designed a new online system to enable EML to manage its own web content, products/pricing, subscription management, and payments.
An open source ‘out-of-the-box’ product was implemented using Wordpress with WooCommerce integration. It was then customised to suit their exact requirements.
ClearPoint designed and built a bespoke kitchen management solution and automated several processes, enabling Eat My Lunch to scale operations and self-manage their systems to ensure the smooth running of orders through to distribution.
“The key focus was to ensure the best customer experience,” discloses Spencer.
One of the questions they asked was, “What is the easiest possible way to order lunches?”
She says this also flowed through to the other side, the preparation of the lunches.
For instance, the EML team used spreadsheets and as the orders came in, they filled these manually and also collated the orders.
“We automated everything and created custom dashboards for the kitchen and office,” says Spencer.
Today, she explains that when the orders come in, the system will also include the ingredients needed, and which schools will receive the meals.
They also automated applications for related processes like printing of labels.
The screens were visible in the office, so production teams have confirmed and forecasted data, resulting in less waste, cost efficiencies, and appropriate staff planning.
According to Spencer, due to the automation it has been able to scale, they are able to make more lunches in the day and sign up more schools.
“This is a value-based business wanting to give back to the community,” she says.
There is a huge waiting list of schools, she shares.
“It is amazing to be able to help. After four years, they got to one million lunches.”
Spencer says the technology supporting EML enabled that scale to happen, which enabled the social enterprise to feed more Kiwis.
EML’s 2018 impact study found 87 per cent of schools report an increase in the concentration of children who receive the lunch, and 62 per cent saw improved attendance of the children in school.
Today, ClearPoint continues to be the technology partner for Eat My Lunch, as well as on the advisory board. Spencer says ClearPoint staff continue to volunteer to make lunches on a regular basis.
Social impact, industry recognition
ClearPoint’s work with EML led it to win the Social Impact Partner of the Year award at the recent Amazon Web Services (AWS) 2019 Australia and New Zealand Amazon Partner Network (APN) Awards.
The project was also a finalist for the best ICT-enabled community programme at the 2019 CIO50 awards.
Spencer shares that the key to the successful partnership between Eat My Lunch and Clearpoint is close collaboration to develop a clear shared understanding of the business, the mission, goals, and operational processes.
“Through this understanding, we were able to determine high impact areas to apply technology and the most important digital touch points for customer,” she says.
According to Spencer, the two organisations established a “high level digital approach” based on a set of principles.
With the new systems, Eat My Lunch has been able to scale, make more lunches, and sign up more schools
One of these was to look at technology as an enabler and to design the EML technology for reliable scale and reach.
“We need to keep ourselves and our customers safe,” she stresses, “and apply best of breed and fit for purpose technology.”
She explains that these principles provide a context for the design of the solution.
“Designing and assembling solutions within these principles require an understanding of the domain and the constraints that the business operates within.”
As a social enterprise, she says, EML is optimised to provide an excellent product to customers while having a positive impact to as many children as possible.
For the purposes of digital and IT, they factored in that EML has no IT department and is constrained on how much investment it would make on systems.
These factors meant that the IT systems and processes provisioned must be as user-friendly and self-service as possible, while providing as much automation as possible.
“ClearPoint’s goal was to utilise mainstream, widely adopted platform technology for specific areas of the business and then integrate and automate these solutions to provide a seamless powerful workflow for Eat My Lunch.”
Spencer says the result is that the systems can be managed directly by the Eat My Lunch operations team, with ClearPoint providing additional technical support only as needed.
“The solutions have helped Eat My Lunch scale, offer additional products, and move into new geographies.”
Support from the top
Spencer shares that ClearPoint has always had a strong value around giving back to the community.
Hamish Rumbold, chief executive at ClearPoint, is one of the foundation partners of Tech for Good NZ.
Tech for Good is a global community established to bring together the fields of social innovation and tech.
“We will identify themes throughout the year where technology can solve social problems,” says Rumbold.
In one of their meetings, the group identified a primary school in Auckland, where students hardly receive a wrapped present.
There is a real opportunity to use the technology talent we got in commercial enterprises, and apply that same thinking, problem solving, into community-based organisations
“These [are] kids in need, they never get to enjoy Christmas like our kids do,” he explains.
The students have been writing letters to Santa on what they wanted and needed. Volunteers seek donors to provide the gifts.
“Some of the stories are pretty heartbreaking,” he shares.
According to Rumbold, the children asked for blankets, pillows, shoes, and rugby balls. Some also asked for lunch boxes, even if they do not have lunch to bring to school.
“There are a lot of people out there who would like to help.”
At the moment this matching process is manually done in spreadsheets.
“So, we will try to use technology to make this process a lot simpler,” he says.
This coming holiday season, he says their goal is to make it seamless to connect people who want to buy gifts for the children.
He says Tech for Good plans to meet every two months.
“Every time we get together, we will try to identify a project like this.”
“There are new ways to solve old problems,” he adds, “and new ways to scale solutions.”
“There is a real opportunity to use the technology talent we got in commercial enterprises, and apply that same thinking, problem solving, into community-based organisations.”
For technology companies, “This is an imperative.”
Sign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, career tips, views and events. Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz
Send news tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org @divinap
Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.