It is a routine that produces anxiety like no other – the horrors of preparing school lunches for our kids. The process of planning a healthy meal is time-intensive, expensive, and exasperating. The Olympic-sized patience you need to possess in order to deal with preferences, allergies, and sometimes outright rebellion is massive. So when Our Lunches approached us with creating a platform and app that would solve this problem for parents and kids – we were excited to make it happen. Actually, we were desperate to make it happen. Some of us were tired of making school lunches.
On the surface, what Our Lunches wanted looked simple. Parents would register on their site, order food for their children, and it would be delivered to their school. But this straightforward service – logistically – was complicated. For instance, what if your child is allergic to peanuts? What if your children went to different schools? What time did they go to lunch? Which kitchen would the order go to? Who would deliver and when? The behind-the-scenes activities could get convoluted and confusing – so the operational part of the project was to tame it with a solution tailored to their organization.
A Bespoke Platform to Connect Lunches to Kids
We started with a discovery phase that made us hyper-familiar with their process. We learned a lot from Our Lunches about how a kitchen operates and the details that made the service so special. Every day parents and kids have up to 60 meals to choose from – with a variety of hot and cold entrées – as well as gluten free and vegetarian options. With every meal, you can choose one of over 26 snacks and a healthy drink option. Each lunchbox needed to be cooked, packaged, assigned a delivery driver, delivered – and be completely tracked via the reporting. When you’re delivering to over half a dozen schools, each with 3 to 4 separate lunch hours, any lack of information could mean a child not getting their meal on time. Letting parents down (and their hungry kids) was not an option.
The biggest challenge of the project was reporting and labeling, the heart of the operation. Unless there was a seamless integration with their kitchens, getting a lunchbox to the right kid at the right time would be impossible. This is where Simple Solutions and Our Lunches collaborated to break down the order and delivery process into segments we could manage via the platform. Reporting was critical to the operation – as orders came in they had to be assigned to a school and time slot so the kitchen can prioritize production and label appropriately. With thousands of combinations available, this reporting was the glue that held the operation together.
Additionally the platform had to handle:
- Creating and managing complex menus
- Printing custom labels for bags, food, instructions, and messages
- Filtering orders by allergies, school, weekday, food modifiers, snacks, drinks
Together we created a completely custom solution that is the hub of their operation. From one central point of reference the Our Lunches team can see and act on real-time information to support the services they offer so every child in their system gets a fresh meal on time every day. The next challenge we tackled? Connecting the parents of hungry kids to the awesome platform.
A Mobile App Designed for Parents on the Go
With operations covered, we moved to connecting the parents to the service. Our Lunches knew that the app had to make a very nuanced product simple. We updated the onboarding process to be quick and useful. Within five minutes you can register, add a child (and their allergies!) and set up payment options. A parent – or child if the parent sets up a user account for them – can take over and start ordering their lunchboxes right away.
To cover all the concerns and situations parents had, the app had to give users the ability to:
- Filter meals for allergies
- Reorder and schedule meals
- Duplicate orders
- Order meals for multiple children
Once in the system, the user can schedule lunchboxes for the entire school year or week to week – however they want. The app has a fluid integration with the Our Lunches platform, making it one of the most human-centered digital products we’ve designed and built.
A bonus feature of the Our Lunches product is enabling promotions aimed at teachers, school employees, and administrators. The discount program benefits them and any of their children going to a partner school. A small expression of gratitude to those whose mission is to educate our kids and keep them safe.
If you’re offering a unique value proposition, out-of-the-box solutions won’t help you fulfill the promises you made to your customer. Creating a product that fits you is hard work requiring time and a lot of research to design and build something purposeful – something that sets you apart from all your competition. Our Lunches knew a typical shopping cart was not going to cut it, and we’re happy they chose us to build something unique in the food preparation space. We’re happy that everything runs like clockwork, and will continue to improve their service through scheduled evaluations and iterations.