Most people don’t relate Thanksgiving with Lean Manufacturing.
Most people also probably don’t relate Lean Manufacturing with community collaborations and helping seniors.
Yet that’s exactly what this tale is about: How Lean Manufacturing training helped a mission-driven food delivery service meet the needs of more seniors in their community.
Savory Fare: Meal Makers with a Mission
Providence resident Mary Hughes founded Savory Fare in 2017 with a mission: to help seniors who wanted to age in place enjoy nourishing meals, even as physical changes made cooking challenging.
After decades of success as a personal chef, Hughes realized that “for older adults, having food prepared for them could really be a vital part of being able to stay in their homes.” To turn her concept into reality, she joined the Social Enterprise Greenhouse incubator and later the Hope & Main accelerator. The two groups frequently collaborate to launch food businesses.
Hughes noted that Savory Fare’s mission and that of Hope & Main align beautifully. “It’s been the perfect home for us.”
When the pandemic hit, Hope & Main launched a unique program – “Nourish Our Neighbors.” Meals produced at Hope & Main are distributed through the senior centers and other organizations in Rhode Island’s East Bay to families experiencing food insecurity during COVID-19.
“We were already processing food in individual servings. We were already understanding what seniors needed,” said Hughes, “so [Hope & Main] came to us right away. We said YES! This aligns with our mission. This is what we want to be doing.”
5 People, 50 Turkeys, 500 Meals in 2 Weeks … AND an Expanded Delivery Schedule?!
During the pandemic, Savory Fare grew as the service was especially appreciated by caregivers and remote family members. Supplying meals for Nourish Our Neighbors also kept the team busy.
As Thanksgiving approached, Hope & Main asked Savory Fare to make 250 roast turkey dinners. The challenges for Hughes’ team included:
- Keeping the price point low and using 10% locally-sourced ingredients
- Continuing to meet orders from their growing clientele
- Getting ready to expand their schedule from one to two delivery days starting December 1
“This was a new undertaking for us to do it at this scale,” said Shelby Doggett, Director of Business Development. “I think we surprised ourselves with how well we did it.”
Doggett and Hughes say the reason they pulled it all off was Lean Manufacturing training from Polaris MEP.
Manufacturing a Happy Ending
Savory Fare had just gone through training in Lean Manufacturing with Polaris MEP, RI’s continuous improvement consultants.
Direct observation had identified ways to improve efficiency. The training already had resulted in some quick, major wins in communications and morale. Now it empowered them to make the most of this Thanksgiving turkey dinner opportunity.
“The timing was perfect, after the Lean training. We laid out everything that we had to do. Thought about how long each step would take, who was the best person to do each step. We laid out the week with goals. We ended up finishing ahead of time,” said Doggett.
Before the team had even finished the order for 250 dinners, Hope & Main requested another 250. That’s 500 meals, from 50 turkeys, to be made by five people in just two weeks.
“By that time we had seen that we were able to produce this special order and take care of our regular clients so we said yes, we’ll do it again,” said Doggett.
“I don’t think we could have made it for the price point if we hadn’t been so efficient,” said Hughes. “Because we are Lean now, we could make it work.”
The team was thrilled to be able to support even more community members through this collaboration with Hope & Main. Hughes said they look forward to more mission-driven successes as they expand their delivery schedule in December of 2021.