Covid-19: Morrisons' NHS car park click & collect set to scale

Morrisons’ fledgling hospital click & collect food box service for NHS staff is set to be scaled across the north of England, according to CEO David Potts.

The grocery boss told Essential Retail the supermarket chain is ramping up production of the boxes and rolling out the service, following a successful launch at St James's Hospital Leeds and Leeds General Infirmary, last Thursday.

Morrisons is in the process of establishing a website solely for NHS staff to order essential goods for pick up at their hospital’s car park. A holding site is currently in place at morrisons.com/food-boxes-nhs/, which directs NHS staff to call 0345 611 6111, to arrange delivery to one of the Leeds hospitals.

Additional hospital locations are set to be added to the service over the next fortnight.

A new idea is formed

Potts said the service received 25 orders online last week, but when staff took a lorry to distribute the items, they sold the other 475 boxes on board to NHS staff finishing their shifts. He said the lorry returned in the afternoon with another 500 food boxes, which were also all sold in a matter of hours.

For NHS staff who have not pre-ordered, there is an option to pay with card on site using the mobile point of sale terminal accompanying the delivery truck, thus ensuring social distancing requirements are met.

“We are developing a plan to tackle a large number of NHS Trusts, primarily in the north of England,” Potts commented.

“From this week we are ramping up production of boxes in the different facilities we own.”

Potts’ definition of where ‘the north’ begins, in this instance, is The Wash on the east coast of England, where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire. He does not have a target number of hospital car parks for this service, but he believes it has the potential to grow quickly.

“What I guess will happen is that as word gets around, NHS staff will order boxes online as we originally envisaged,” Potts said.

“As with most things, it depends on demand. If the NHS Trusts who receive it first like it, and the staff like it, then it will spread subject to us being able to scale it.”

He continued: “It’s all about pickers, packers and wheels.”

Picking and packing prep

Morrisons’ fruit packing facility in Bradford is being used for compiling the boxes, as are sites near Sheffield and Derby, where conveyor belts have been installed in preparation for an increase in production demand.

The Morrisons food boxes are available for vegetarians or meat eaters, and they are priced at £30. A typical box will be made up of items such as canned baked beans, soup and pasta sauce, milk, dairy products such as butter and cheese, bread, rice and pasta, and vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions.

The vegetarian version includes proteins in the form of meat-free sausages or mince, while the meat version is packed with fresh chicken or beef.