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Minibar Delivery’s CEO on Keeping the Drinks Flowing During Lockdown

Despite bar closures, alcohol sales have surged since March, when states began implementing stay-at-home orders and lockdown measures to fight the coronavirus crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit most businesses hard, but not all are suffering. In fact, some are actually growing at an exponential rate—specifically, alcohol delivery apps. With bars and restaurants closed and most of the country stuck at home, on-demand booze has never been more popular.

“Obviously before [COVID-19], consumers drank at home, but they also went out to bars and restaurants. Now, they’ve shifted all of that to at-home,” explained Minibar Delivery cofounder and CEO Lindsey Andrews, noting that new buyers on her app are up 515 percent on average per day. “So, people do need to buy more, or are buying more overall.”

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As one of the fortunate businesses that is thriving instead of declining, Worth recently spoke with Andrews about how her company’s handling its astronomical growth amidst the current pandemic, why helping small businesses is so important for Minibar and the perfect drinks to help unwind after working from home all day.

Lindsey Andrews

Q: First things first, how are you doing? Are you OK?

A: Yes, I am doing well. I have been quarantining, so my only challenge is two working parents and no childcare, but besides that, I’m very lucky.

Is everyone at Minibar Delivery now working from home?

Yeah, we have been working from home since before it was mandatory. We started mandatory work from home on March 12. It was optional to work from home before that. Actually, the majority of our team works from home anyway. We have about 15 full-time hourly customer service employees, and they’ve always worked from home. Then, our customer service directors work from home, as do a couple of other people. There are actually only five of us in New York. So, we were the only ones who have had to adjust our working behaviors.

Has the virus really changed much of your day-to-day with so many remote workers already?

It has changed. It’s a little bit more isolating working alone. It’s harder for me with a child working from home, having to do that and work. But we are able to accomplish everything we need to accomplish from home, which is great. Obviously, we so appreciate all our mom-and-pop liquor store partners, and all our liquor store partners, since they’re really on the front lines, and they’re still out there delivering. Hopefully, everyone is sheltering in place and staying home, so that they’re not exposed to anyone on the streets.

So, I’ve seen some stats, and it’s obvious that you guys are seeing some incredible growth right now. Are the numbers still going up?

They are still going up. On average, for example, new buyers are up 515 percent on average per day. But the daily average post-COVID in March versus the daily average in April is still up 107 percent. So, we are still seeing the trends go up.

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That’s amazing. I also heard that the minimum order amount has gone up as well. Do you think that’s because everyone’s trying to minimize their social interactions? Or are people just drinking more?

I think at the beginning it was people stocking up, and they didn’t know if alcohol would be deemed essential. So, they were ordering a lot more to make sure they had enough for a couple of weeks. But now that alcohol has been deemed essential, I think people are leveling off their average order size. Obviously before, consumers drank at home, but they also went out to bars and restaurants. Now, they’ve shifted all of that to at-home. So, people do need to buy more, or are buying more overall. But it’s definitely leveled off since the first couple of days when people didn’t know where alcohol would fall.

That makes sense. I know that you guys don’t actually handle the last-mile delivery part, but with all of these new orders and increasing new customers, have you had to adjust from the platform and tech side, or even by adding new partners?

Yes, we’ve definitely had to adjust. We’ve basically diverted all of our tech resources to building tools for our customer service staff. We were not staffed for doubling our business overnight. So, we obviously have much higher volumes of people reaching out. Plus, the whole supply chain has been a little bit messed up, so they’re more out of stocks. The stores don’t have as much inventory as they had before, A), because of the supply chain, and B), because people are buying so much. So that’s definitely been a challenge. Then due to that, making sure we have proper messaging in place to make sure consumers know that our business is usually 30- to 60-minute delivery, but with the increase in demand, deliveries are a little bit delayed, and making sure customers know that during this brief period orders will probably be more in the two- to four-hour delivery range, but still same day.

To help with that, we’ve also been quickly adding new stores. We’ve had tons of outreach. Obviously, we want to help as many businesses as we can, especially the mom-and-pop liquor stores. We’ve been adding them as quickly as we possibly can as they reach out, which both helps them and helps our consumers, because then hopefully their orders will get there faster, and there’ll be fewer out of stocks.

Obviously, the current situation’s is not good, but seeing your brand grow and being able to help out other smaller local shops must feel good to some extent for you and your company, right?

Yeah, we’re really happy to help small businesses. I wish we could do more because we know that it’s scary being out there. We have the luxury of working from home, so we couldn’t do it without them. So, we really are thankful for all that they do.

Do you have a plan in place for customer retention following the aftermath of all this?

Yeah, we’ve already seen customers are being extremely sticky. We will continue to do our normal retention marketing, and hopefully people will get even better service going forward. We really hope the retention is great, and we’ll market that to consumers—that during this crazy time, your order might’ve taken four hours. But our normal promise, when the world goes back to the status quo, is actually 30- to 60-minute delivery. So, our service offering will get even better. Our customer service staff hopefully won’t be as bombarded with inquiries, so that they can even get back to customers faster. Hopefully the overall experience for consumers going forward will only improve.

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Last year, in an interview with VentureFizz about starting the company, you said that you and your cofounder “saw alcohol as a luxury consumable.” I was wondering how that idea has impacted your vision for the company from its founding up until now.

We wanted to build a product that matched the amazing brands that are on it, from Veuve Clicquot to Casa Dragones, to all the amazing brands the alcohol brands have built. But we obviously wanted all consumers to feel welcome at Minibar. So, we wanted to make sure it was a very accessible and welcoming platform, but make sure it was sleek and great to use with good information, and easy to navigate to match the brands that all of our partners have built. Hopefully, we have built an accessible luxury, but there’s always more work to be done and more creative and branding and brainstorming to be done. We’re excited for the next chapter of Minibar.

I know a lot of states have loosened laws around alcohol delivery right now. Does that impact your business model in any way? Or is that more just for the restaurants and bars?

They have loosened the model in a lot of states. So, there is off-premise sales and on-premise sales. We work with all off-premise retailers, so liquor stores who sell for people to consume off-premise. They have loosened the laws, where now on-premise, or restaurants and bars, can sell for people to consume off-premise. But we have such an influx of liquor stores reaching out to us that, unfortunately, we haven’t been able to yet add bars and restaurants.

Is that something you’re hoping to do at some point?

We are really focused on our core business and really helping the partners we got in the business to help, which are the liquor stores. Hopefully, we can find a way to help the bars and restaurants, whether potentially adding them at some point, or more likely, hopefully doing some sort of donation component to Minibar.

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Finally, I have to ask, what’s your go-to drink right now during all of this craziness?

It’s funny, I feel like my drinking habits match Minibar sales. We do about 50 percent wine, and I’m a big white wine drinker. But I have found during this time that I want to mix it up a little bit more. So, I have been having more cocktails, and we have seen an uptick in liquor sales and spirit sales. Whether it’s the spicy margarita or an Aperol spritz, I feel like the variety is great. So, I have been mixing it up more instead of sticking to my usual white wine.

An Aperol spritz actually sounds amazing right now.

They’re delicious. At times, I’ve had to forgo the orange slice, because I haven’t had fresh produce at every turn. But it’s still delicious.

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