How 9 Miles East Uses Bottle for Pre-Ordering, SMS Marketing, and A VIP Membership Club
How this multi-channel food operation uses the power of text and pre-ordering to sustain and grow their local food economy.
9 Miles East is “primarily a vegetable farm,” according to Market Director Tyler Spangenberg. And yet the land in Schuylerville, NY, and its output are only the beginning of the 9 Miles East story.
The company’s tagline is “Local Food for Busy People” and they tackle it from a multitude of angles: through workplace catering and wellness programs, home meal kit delivery, CSA shares, and serving sourdough pizza and seasonal fare at their café. This stratification is great for business. It also means they have several different customer bases to which they need to cater to and communicate with.
Using Bottle For Pre-Ordering and Corporate Catering
9 Miles East first discovered the power of Bottle after realizing they were being shut out of delivering to certain large corporate customers. Specifically, they could not reach hospitals and schools that had on-site food services (and therefore non-compete clauses) and/or operated in a fashion where their employees had strict schedules.
“That’s when we started exploring pre-ordered, pre-paid services and a text-ordering service made a lot of sense,” Tyler recalls. After implementing Bottle to deliver directly to doctors and teachers in the capital region of New York and Boston, adoption was swift.
Pivoting In The Pandemic and Streamlining Operations
When the pandemic hit, their workplace business went to zero. Luckily, they already had their footing with Bottle and were able to pivot to reaching customers who were suddenly working from home, via text. “Now, as people come back to the offices, we’ll be ready to continue to serve them, but using this app, which is great because it checks a lot of the boxes that big companies are looking for in order to feed their employees in a safe, contact-free way,” Tyler says.
Moving more of their customer base onto Bottle has also helped 9 Miles East streamline their operations. “It’s a heck of a lot more efficient, delivery-wise,” Tyler adds. Prior to COVID, their drivers could fit eight or nine stops into a typical day, whereas now using Bottle, they can fit in 20–25, depending on the range of customers’ locations.
Establishing Seamless, Direct Customer Communication Using Text
While corporate deliveries are 9 Miles East’s highest volume use of Bottle, they’re also utilizing it to coordinate produce shares and pizza deliveries. The communication function of Bottle is particularly useful with their CSA customers, Tyler says, since it’s all text-based and they don’t have to download an app to use it. “That inline communication that links both the backend and the product management coupled with the fact that you can message and text people right from the interface is super handy, particularly when you’re on the road,” he says.
When he messages their 50 CSA customers to let them know that delivery is the next day, he can use the opportunity to upsell additional products such as pizza, yogurt, honey, and eggs.
Building a VIP Pizza Club
The farm also uses Bottle for it’s 9 O’Clock Club, which drives business to the café during their final hours of service with nightly alerts on discounts and deals.
To sign up is simple: customers text “9oclock” to 9 Miles East’s number, which opts them in to receive 7 PM text notifications about secret menu items and special offers. They have until 8 PM to order, and then 9 Miles East delivers at 9 PM.
Building an exclusive-access club powered by SMS is an excellent use case of Bottle and an easy way for 9 Miles East to offer more while deepening connections with their most loyal clientele. It’s also a win-win for the business and the customer. The 9 O’Clock Club brings in revenue during an otherwise quiet time and reduces the potential of food waste, all while supplying delicious food at a discounted price to diners.
Supporting Local Food Ecosystems With Bottle
9 Miles East has been sustainably farming in upstate New York since 2004, so they’ve gained a significant amount of brand awareness amongst locals. “Our biggest advertiser is word of mouth,” Tyler says. “Pizza is our gateway drug,” he adds, laughing. Their pies are made with dough that undergoes a three-day fermentation process and is topped with farm-made sauce and seasonal veggies, a recipe that suits both their ethos and the needs of their clientele. Since sourdough is naturally leavened, it’s easier to digest for people who are sensitive to gluten, and using farm-fresh ingredients allows them to highlight the produce that they’re currently harvesting.
Bottle’s mission of building the local food system is as much of a goal for 9 Miles East as is their focus on expanding access to healthy meals. Anything that they don’t produce themselves, such as meat, they source as locally as possible. “We love the fact that compared to ten years ago when there were maybe one or two farmers markets around, there’s now one on every corner,” Tyler says. “We basically like to create farmer’s market customers.”