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Transforming a 43 year old phone ordering only system to online

Transforming a 43 year old phone ordering only system to online

Jonathan Roque

Seaside Seafood has been a family owned business since 1977 where they pride themselves on providing the highest quality crabs and seafood in Glen Burnie, Maryland, on the east coast of the United States. Like most businesses around the world during the global pandemic, they had to quickly shift their way of doing business and receiving orders.

We spoke with Eric, one of the owners at Seaside Seafood on adding curbside pickup to their business, transforming a 43 year old phone ordering only system to online ordering and what is an absolute must try when visiting Seaside Seafood.

What services does Seaside Seafood offer and how has Zapiet helped you?

Eric: “Seaside Seafood is a carryout steamed crab and seafood business.  We have been a family owned / operated business since 1977.  We do ship crabs and crab cakes nationwide but are primarily a carry out business.  At the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we went  to an exclusively curbside pick up business model and we were able to utilize the features of the "Store Pickup & Delivery" app from Zapiet to launch online ordering for curbside pick up.  Zapiet's features make it very easy to manage pick up times, individual product prep times, and internal order notifications for the staff.”

Did the Coronavirus Pandemic affect your business? Did you have to shut down?

Eric: "Because this location (we also have 2 full service restaurants) is strictly carry out, we were able to remain open under new safety guidelines mandated by the Governor.  But, switching to exclusively curbside pickup, led to several incremental changes in the way we handle payments and delivery.  

Initially, we tried to take payments over the phone when customers would call at 11 AM to order crabs for later in the day.  But, due to taking upwards of 100 orders between 11 AM and 12 Noon, we started getting phone numbers and calling customers back to take payments through our POS system - this effectively doubled our phone interaction with each customer. Then, as customers would arrive to pick up their crabs, they would call to let us know they were in the parking lot -- now we are talking to each customer three times for each order.  This became untenable as it overwhelmed the 3 phone lines we have and kept us from taking additional orders later in the day.

I quickly ordered portable wifi enabled credit card terminals so we could take payments in the parking lot eliminating a phone call for payments.  We also added additional staff to work in the parking lot, greeting customers in the parking lot and radioing in which customers were picking up ... eliminating the 3rd phone call.

We have had a Shopify website for ordering crabs and crab cakes to be shipped out via FedEx for about 2 years, we never really focused on that part of the business and hadn't pushed it as a revenue channel. I was discussing the issues we were having related to the Coronavirus Pandemic with my wife and she suggested we use the website for online ordering for curbside pick-up.  At first I was a little skeptical because of how our crab inventory changes so rapidly and with 43 years of doing things over the phone, I wasn't sure how our customers would react.

Over the course of a few evenings, we looked at different solutions to do online ordering and we kept coming back to Zapiet.  Zapiet seemed to really be the only viable solution for us.  I was impressed with the functionality of Zapiet and the reviews about their customer service were excellent -- not true with some other providers.  It took a little while for us to be able to get on board with Zapiet, I am certain it was because many other businesses were facing the same challenges navigating the pandemic.  Once we were on board, we were off and running!  

Our website went from a handful of orders per month to doing in excess of 100 orders a day on busy weekend days.  Our customers love the ability to order online, pay online, and pick up without getting out of their cars.  

They also love that they can order online a full hour before we even turn the phones on!  I am certain this would not have been successful had we not found Zapiet."

image: Seaside Seafood
What is something unique about Seaside Seafood?

Eric: "I think the amount of care we put into steaming crabs sets us apart from other places.  Many places I have been in literally dump crabs into the pots and sprinkle a little seasoning on them - some get a little, some get none.  We take a lot of care and pride in how we pack our pots.  Each layer of crabs gets a liberal amount of our proprietary seasoning blend. So, if you get a dozen crabs from Seaside, each crab will be seasoned just right."

Will curbside pickup remain part of your business moving forward?

Eric: “We actually discuss this pretty regularly.  "What happens when this is over?"  My personal feeling is that we will remain strictly curbside until at least mid 2021 and probably work to incorporate it into the long term operation beyond the pandemic.”

What is an absolute must try when visiting Seaside Seafood?

Eric: “We have long been known for providing the best steamed crabs around.  I really think our Maryland style crab cakes are some of the best available.  We ship our crabs and crab cakes all over the continental United States and plan to put more emphasis into marketing that later this year.”

seaside seafood
image: Seaside Seafood

Seaside Seafood will definitely be on our list of places to check out once we are all able to travel again! To learn more about Zapiet or Store Pickup + Delivery view our video tutorials and explore the app. Get started using the Store Pickup and Delivery app from Shopify and get a 14 day free trial.