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Delivering new and improved customer ordering experiences

Gordon Food Service

Gordon Food Service - cook checking his tablet for orders

Make cloud native happen

  • Category: Distribution eCommerce B2B

Gordon Food Service began more than a century ago as a local butter and egg delivery service. Today, it's the largest family-operated broadline food distribution company in North America, serving approximately 100,000 business customers.

Much has changed, but the company's commitment to customer service and satisfaction remains the same. Gordon Food Service offers best-in-class products and menu design assistance to restaurants, schools, universities, and hospitals, helping them provide their own customers a satisfying and nutritious dining experience.

Google Cloud results

  • Increases customer satisfaction and competitive edge with streamlined ordering
  • Provides high availability and near-limitless scalability for customer-facing ordering application
  • Helps protect customer orders and order history with robust security and disaster recovery
2,920 deployments a year
99% improvement to customer feature requests
1hr workload portability and redeployment

For years, Gordon Food Service captured customer orders through two on-premises systems: an internally developed CRM application for U.S. customers and an off-the-shelf ERP system for Canadian customers. Although the customer ordering experience was good, Gordon Food Service saw an opportunity to improve it. Customer expectations were changing, and the company wanted the B2B ordering process to be more like a modern B2C shopping experience. In addition, market disruptors and new competitors were putting pressure on Gordon Food Service to innovate.

"We needed to go faster," says Craig Van Arendonk, Director of IT - Customer and Sales at Gordon Food Service. "The competitive landscape required us to put new features and functionality in front of our customers faster, so we needed to think differently about ecommerce and our digital strategy."

To modernise its flagship ecommerce ordering application and differentiate its brand against existing competitors and new entrants, Gordon Food Service approached Kin + Carta, a Google Cloud Premier Partner, to help deliver a pilot to its Canadian customers. It wanted the new system, called Gordon Ordering, to be operational in approximately six months. To achieve this tight timeline, Gordon Food Service chose to develop and deploy the application on Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Building a better ordering process

To simplify customer ordering, Gordon Food Service wanted a clean, intuitive design anchored on a first-class search experience. It also wanted to accelerate app innovation by moving to a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) model that would allow it to incorporate customer feedback and deploy new features daily instead of on a quarterly release cycle.

To accomplish this, Gordon Food Service (GFS) and Kin + Carta built the new ordering application using microservices on Google Kubernetes Engine, a managed service that enables rapid application development and iteration by making it easy to deploy, update, and manage applications and services. Using agile software development methodologies, GFS and Kin + Carta delivered the pilot in just 209 days, leveraging Cloud Build for fast, consistent, automated container builds. A Google Technical Account Manager helped Gordon Food Service keep the project on track by coordinating the right people to make the sprint successful.

Before moving to Google Cloud Platform, the idea that we could take a customer's feature request and put it into production in less than 24 hours was man-on-the-moon stuff. Now, we do it all the time.

Craig Van Arendonk - Director of IT - Customer and Sales, Gordon Food Service
Gordon Food Service - chefs checking food orders on phones

"Kin + Carta brought a customer-driven development methodology that helped us build what our customers actually want, instead of what we thought they wanted," says Tom Pearce, IT Manager, E-Commerce at Gordon Food Service. "They had a proven process for that approach, along with experience working on Google Cloud Platform. It's been tremendously successful."

Canadian customers now benefit from substantially improved search functionality and a streamlined look and feel. For example, autofill suggestions, "did you mean," and spelling corrections help customers find the products they're looking for faster and easier. Soon, U.S. customers will enjoy the same functionality.

Increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction

Every day, customers provide feedback about Gordon Ordering and request new features or enhancements. Often, the development team can put the changes into production the next day. By establishing ongoing, iterative feedback loops with customers, Gordon Food Service is increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction.

"Before moving to Google Cloud Platform, the idea that we could take a customer's feature request and put it into production in less than 24 hours was man-on-the-moon stuff," says Craig. "Now, we do it all the time."

Users who initially started with the old ordering application experience improvements on a daily basis, yet the changes are seamless enough that their overall ordering experience remains consistent. Not surprisingly, GFS customers really like the new system, and the company notes it has received many accolades.

A scalable, flexible digital platform

The Google Cloud infrastructure makes Gordon Ordering much easier for engineers to maintain, as clusters are automatically upgraded and kept up to date with the latest release version of Kubernetes. When GFS experiences seasonal fluctuations in order volume, Kubernetes Engine will allow it to quickly scale up and down to match demand. As U.S. customers are brought on board, managed services such as Cloud Pub/Sub and Cloud Datastore will also scale easily, without increasing operational overhead. In addition, the cloud infrastructure provides higher availability, robust security and disaster recovery, and easy workload portability between regions and across clouds.

Gordon Food Service - chef checking a paper order versus tablet

If we needed to, we could tear everything down and build it back up in less than an hour and redeploy anywhere. That's the beauty of having Google Kubernetes Engine behind Gordon Ordering. Since we launched, we've had zero customer-facing downtime, so customers can always place orders.

Derek Pontius - Software Architect, Gordon Food Service

A scalable, flexible digital platform

Because restaurants typically operate under tight timelines and can order food items from a variety of suppliers, GFS loses business when its systems are unavailable or running slow. GCP helps solve this problem by allowing the company to deploy its ecommerce environment in multiple data centers, each with its own scaling capabilities.

"If we needed to, we could tear everything down and build it back up in less than an hour and redeploy anywhere," says Derek Pontius, Software Architect at Gordon Food Service. "That's the beauty of having Google Kubernetes Engine behind Gordon Ordering. Since we launched, we've had zero customer-facing downtime, so customers can always place orders."

Gordon Food Service - chef stock-checking via tablet

Unprecedented agility for a competitive edge

Gordon Food Service is now deploying new features and fixes into Gordon Ordering eight times a day on average, instead of being tied to a quarterly release cycle. Critical issue turnaround now averages 4 hours and 40 minutes from the time the issue is discovered until the fix is in production and verified. As a result, code and service quality have dramatically improved.

For example, when a customer accidentally ordered 14 cases of onion rings instead of 1, Gordon Food Service quickly updated the "Did you mean to order so many?" warning message to be more prominent. Unless users confirm their purchasing intent, the warning message now follows them around the application, all the way to their shopping cart.

"Moving to Google Cloud Platform will help us be more competitive and serve customers better," says Craig. "Whether it's a hospital customer wanting more nutritional information to meet dietary constraints or a school that wants to track its orders to get reimbursed by the government, we can make it easier for them."

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