Providing home delivered meals for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic


For Oakhouse Foods, the advice for elderly and vulnerable individuals – to remain inside their homes and have supplies delivered to their door – has meant that their frozen meals delivery franchise has become an essential service. As government guidance changes frequently, this has required Oakhouse to be especially agile, modifying their business processes swiftly in response to each new challenge.

C3 have been working alongside Oakhouse, as their trusted ecommerce partner, to monitor their website and implement new features and functionality as a result of changing consumer behaviour.

Handling spikes in traffic

Oakhouse have seen a much higher volume of visitors to their site during the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly during a series of features on prime-time TV. This has required ongoing monitoring of server usage during peak times to ensure an uninterrupted service. The cloud-hosted, multi-server architecture in place supporting the Oakhouse site allows us to meet the ever increasing demands on server resources caused by continually rising visitor numbers. The elastic nature of cloud hosting, in combination with C3’s carefully architected hosting solution, has been designed to handle the kind of spikes in traffic that we have seen as a result of the Coronavirus. This is a time when the need for the website to be up and available, and for the population’s most vulnerable people to be able to put food on their table, is at its greatest.

“Big shout out to the team over at C3 for keeping our website running flawlessly following a 2500% increase in site traffic in the space of just 3 minutes. Feels great being in such capable hands!”

Luke Harrison – Head of Data Science & Systems @ Oakhouse Foods – March ‘20

Orders placed on the Oakhouse site have also skyrocketed, with interest from many new customers as well as existing. In one week during March they reported both their strongest week and single day of sales since the inception of the business. This unprecedented success has, however, added pressure upon their staff and infrastructure.

Adjusting to increased demands

As the Oakhouse website does not utilise stock levels for products, it was essential to put measures in place to avoid staff becoming overwhelmed with an unlimited amount of orders during this period of increased demand. Custom C3 functionality on the Oakhouse site enables effective management of delivery slots, by allowing for adjustments to be made on an individual franchisee basis,  taking into account their stock levels and delivery team availability. This reduces the risk of branches becoming overloaded, with the worst case scenario being overselling and not being able to deliver on order promises made to their loyal customer base.

Additional features have been developed – on individual products and within the checkout – which make it easier for Oakhouse to focus on serving their existing customers, especially those who are identified as vulnerable. Recent functionality allows orders from new customers to be taken according to current availability levels, with delivery slots being allocated depending on the demand from their existing customer base.

An accessible and trusted service

The Oakhouse site, which was replatformed by C3 to Magento 2 Commerce in August 2019, has been designed with usability, clarity and efficiency at its core. As a key phase of the project, biometric research was conducted with a group of Oakhouse customers, which opened the door to the minds of senior citizens and identified friction points to eradicate in the rebuild. This has resulted in a simple and accessible site that the elderly and vulnerable can easily navigate, without assistance, during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Each interactive element on the Oakhouse site has been carefully designed to reduce friction. For example, forms and pop-ups, which were shown to be stressful areas for the older customers, are clear and instructive without being too complicated. The site has also been optimised for usability and design on mobile and tablet, particularly for those with poor eyesight and mobility.

During these times of rapid change, it has been essential for Oakhouse to reassure their customers that they are in safe hands. The flexibility of the Magento platform allows the Oakhouse team to swiftly update messaging about the precautions being taken during the coronavirus pandemic, responding to evolving social distancing guidance. The live chat functionality has also proved instrumental in dealing with customer concerns quickly and efficiently, which frees up the customer service team to answer and deal with other customer queries or high priority issues.

The future

Whilst this period of pandemic is temporary, experts have claimed that this could have a lasting impact on global shopping habits. ‘Pre-outbreak norms’ may be traded for the convenience of ordering online, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable who find shopping for themselves a challenge. Through investing in their online offering and staying close to their customers during this time, Oakhouse Foods are not only remaining agile in these trying times, but are future-proofing their business for continued success.

“Thank you for the support we are receiving from C3 at the moment, it’s much appreciated and really enabling us to do a good job for our customers in these challenging times.”

Sue McVie – Managing Director @ Oakhouse Foods – April ‘20

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