Delivery Around the World


March 14, 2024
by Adam 

We drove around the world for you!

Hello, avid GBM readers! In a rare lapse in judgment, Anna Catherine, Elizabeth, and Kayla decided to let me out of my office and into the writing room for this week’s blog post. I pitched several Excel-themed blog ideas… all of which were shot down immediately for reasons I cannot comprehend. However, one golden nugget managed to catch their attention, so here I am! 

Most of you probably know that GBM offers weekly delivery to the greater Tri-Cities region; it is by FAR the most popular way to receive our food. In fact, I would be willing to bet that most, if not all, of you place your order before the Monday night cutoff and don’t think about it again until we text you a reminder on Thursday morning. Sound about right? Good! That’s how it is designed. However, a lot happens between Tuesday and Friday morning (beyond making your food, of course), and currently, most of the work building and scheduling the route is done by me! So... sit back, relax, grab a GBM cookie, and let me tell you about the wild adventures of routing! 

Okay… so I’m probably overselling it a bit. In reality, it’s a lot of Excel reformatting followed by a few hours of staring at a map and poking around until it all falls into place (on a good week). For context, we typically have between 100 and 130 individual houses to visit each Friday, and each one of those houses was given 8 different time slots to choose between. Technically, the number of possible combinations of that set is crazy – I won’t even write it out, but the number has something like 51 digits in it – though you all aren’t usually that mean to us. During our busiest seasons around major holidays, we see the number of houses balloon to 200+, which always adds to the adventure. Our task is to fit each of these stops into a cohesive route during the time gaps you all select while ensuring your food is safe the entire time. 

To begin this process, we have to compile and format all of the orders that you placed before the deadline. This specific step is about half an hour of exporting, reformatting, verifying, and structuring; nothing too crazy. Next comes the fun part! We plug the resulting Excel spreadsheet into our routing software, which generates a specific stop for each person, complete with their mapped address, contact information, delivery instructions, time constraints, and the number of items ordered. You know the red pin Google Maps drops on that restaurant you searched for? It’s more or less like that, but in this case, there are over 100 pins spread out through the Tri-Cities (and they are blue…).

Once these little blue pins have been created, I go through each and verify that there are no duplicates or random, stray addresses (like that one time someone’s house ended up in New York). For those of you placing a few separate orders each week, this is where those get combined into one stop with all of your items accounted for! Blue pins that survive this round of edits are now ready for the first attempt at routing, and I promise, the first attempt is NEVER the right one. By plugging the hours of our delivery drivers into the system (and editing some technical measurements to ensure no one is driving forever), the routing software will generate the first glimpse of that week’s route. As I mentioned above, this first pass is hardly the final version because it always misses a few of you due to the limits of the 2-hour time windows. Additionally, we are always mindful of how long food is out and about because we want to make sure the food you get from us is still well within safe parameters when it arrives. This means that the most “efficient” route is rarely the one we choose to run because, yes, we can run one person through Abingdon, VA, and then into Elizabethton. Yes, it may technically be the most efficient way to do both, but not if the food is going to be out on the road for four hours. It just won’t work! So, we go back to the drawing board. 

Usually, we have to run 6 to 10 variations of this automated process before we find an alignment that starts to take shape from a safety perspective. Now is an excellent time to mention that our drivers are incredibly patient people because they genuinely don’t know when they will be working until sometimes only 18 hours before they come in. Honestly – we’re lucky to have great people in those roles! Anyway… the final step of planning for any good route is manual, and it is usually the longest one. I'll pour over the route for anywhere between 2 to 4 hours, looking for ways to get everyone within their time gaps and make the “runs” as short as possible. We ask a lot of questions like, “How can we get this customer who is currently scheduled at 12:15 PM within their requested time gap of 10 AM to 12 PM?” or “Can we visit this neighborhood only once in the middle of the day instead of delivering to one neighbor in the morning and one in the afternoon?” (That last one is way more common than you might think!) We’ll run lots of variations, moving stops around to test the domino effect on the rest of the day until we feel like we are serving the most possible people according to their requested schedule and with the maximum safety precautions in place. And voila - the route is ready to go!   

I’ll admit that on my best days, this is honestly kind of fun. It’s like a puzzle I get to solve each week! If that puzzle gets too hard, though? Well, let’s say we’ve had days where the manual part of the routing takes 6 to 8 hours, and those are great exercises in patience. However, no matter how long the process takes, the outcome is always assured – Good Batch Mama will be on your doorstep on Friday! Which brings us to our final step, which is letting you all know when we’re coming! We know how hard it can be to sit around for a few hours waiting for an appointment to arrive (we’re looking at you, generic pop culture cable guy), so we try to be as specific as possible. This is why we create and send a text message to each stop on Thursday, letting you know 1) the 30-minute window we expect to arrive within and 2) the street address and house number of the place you’ve asked us to deliver to. And, for most of you, that’s that! You all plan your days accordingly, and our dedicated drivers drop your food off as expected.   

Simple enough, right? We know that delivery plays only a small part in the delicious outcome you have come to expect from Good Batch Mama, but now you know a little bit more about how your food gets from our freezer to yours! Thanks to all who have read this far, and thank you for continuing to trust us with your food! 

(See? I told them they were overreacting to letting me give the blog a try! I'm only 750 words over my maximum...)

P.S. - A few fun facts:

As we reflected on 2023, we found it fun to compile some of our delivery statistics for review, and thought you all might enjoy them, too! See below for a few of my favorites (rounded off for simplicity’s sake):