An Interview with our COO, Kayleigh Kahn

April 29, 2021

Kayleigh greeting a sweet Luke's Local pup

Interview with the COO

Kayleigh: Hello? Hello. 

Emily: Hi. What is your name and title here at Luke's?

Kayleigh: My name is Kayleigh and I'm the COO. 

Emily: Okay, great. What does that mean that you actually do day to day at the company? 

Kayleigh: Oh gosh. Lots of things, mostly meetings. It is a fun smorgasbord of a lot of different things. There's, you know, financial planning, but there's also helping out on the floor when I need to. Lately that involves stocking wine, which is one of my new favorite pastimes. And then also doing a lot of research about how to make our culture and workplace better, more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

I feel like I'm probably missing stuff, but that gives you a good idea of the variety.

Emily: Thank you. Okay, so I wanted to start with a couple of fun ones. So if you could only have one Luke’s Local housemade food ever again -  it could be a deli salad or a chef's meal or a sandwich - what would it be?

Kayleigh: Okay. I think that it's a tie between the roasted red pepper dip and the mojo pork

Emily: That's a great answer. Okay, cool. What is your favorite go-to dinner to grab at Luke's, like, if you're running late, you're like getting out of work late, but you know, you don't have any food at home. You don't want to order food.

Kayleigh: Zero Zero pizza with arugula on make it feel healthy.

Emily: Cool. Got it. Yum. I’m hungry now. Okay, so tell us a little bit about your origin story with Luke's.

Kayleigh: I remember sitting on my parents' couch in the suburbs of Boston browsing and seeing a Customer Relations Associate opening for a company called Luke's Local. And I was like, Oh, I guess I'll apply. And I applied, and I interviewed, and I got the job! I moved out here and I've been here ever since. 

Emily: Cool. So in a lot of ways the same-day delivery service, same-day delivery and pick-up grocery service that we offer, is your baby.

Can you tell us a little bit about how that baby was born, how it came to be, and what was the motivation for offering the service?

Kayleigh:  Yeah. When I came on, and over and over again, I'd hear customers requesting a mobile app and I'd bring it up to Luke and he'd be like, yeah, no... not yet. And then the day came that he was like, We're going to open a store and we're also going to develop a mobile app. I was like, heck yes! 

So that's when Tomás joined the team and I remember having a stakeholder interview (I was learning all these new tech terms!), just brainstorming everything we wanted this app to be. And it was really, really fun.

And so while everybody else was getting ready to open a physical store, I was deep in this virtual world of building a mobile app, which was really, really cool to see. And then we had this app, but we had to figure out how we were actually going to shift our operations to support it.

So that's how the baby was born. I guess like how the baby kind of grew up is what I'm getting into next. But that’s how it was born!

Emily: I bet you'll be able to touch upon how it grew up in the next question, which is: what were some of the biggest challenges in the early stages of Same-Day delivery?

Kayleigh:  I think it was just.. trying to kind of take the initial vision for what we thought was going to be a really good idea and adjust it based on how it was actually performing in reality. So we had a one mile radius around our Cole Valley location and it turned out that the people in the one mile radius would rather walk to the store and shop in person, which is a testament to the experience of shopping here. But it wasn't really doing much for the Same-Day service. So we had to make the decision to - and this was probably the hardest decision and the biggest challenge - we had to decide to shut down our original Next-Day service and move completely to doing Same-Day. And so that meant stopping delivery to the East Bay, South Bay, the Peninsula. So, that allowed us to do delivery seven days a week, all over the city, instead of just five days a week. And you could order it and get your delivery within two hours instead of waiting a day or more to get your groceries. So ultimately, I think that decision paid off because we were able to deliver in a more concentrated area and use our brick and mortar location as an advertising channel that was also sales generating in it of itself. And then we eventually moved to having a car deliver things instead of a bike. Bikes are obviously more nostalgic, but cars are much more practical. 

Emily: Yeah, definitely sounds like one of the biggest challenges was like, figuring out how to juggle this new business with the existing business, where you already had such a loyal following and also just - transportation.

Kayleigh: Yeah. I think it's like any small business: for us, the main source of business is the store, right? It's generating most of the revenue. But if you're trying to get this other idea off the ground, you don't want to invest all of your resources into it and have it fail, right? So you want to kind of test out different things a little bit at a time.

So I think one of the challenges there was just like, all of the failing over and over again, like having to be the on-call driver all the time because I didn't want to hire somebody full time if we weren't getting the orders that we needed to justify having them on staff. So I was figuring out all of the moving parts of how to make this service work as a one-woman show for a long time.

Emily: We've made a very active choice to never engage with the gig economy as a way to make this service work. Can you speak a little bit to the rationale there?

Kayleigh: Yeah, I think it's two fold. One is that we really believe in vertical integration and all of the benefits that it can bring. I think you see that in our commitment to our amazing house-made products and our team of chefs. But I think also just like, culturally, we believe in providing a stable income and workplace for anybody who is performing services for us on a daily basis - like drivers. So employing them as full employees, giving them access to benefits, paid time off - all of those things - is really important to us. Even if it might, in theory, be easier to work with like a gig worker or contracted delivery company, it doesn't feel in line with our ethics.

Emily: I would agree with that. I think that's really exciting. Okay. Wrapping up here. I think you sort of touched upon this, but what makes our same-day delivery grocery service different from other grocery delivery services? 

Kayleigh: We are a small but mighty team and we're real people. And it's usually the same real people delivering your food every Monday that you order your deliveries. It's the same team behind the scenes doing so much to make sure that your experience is as good as it can be. And I think that that's like really amazing, you know, like if I order from a competitor, I don't know the person I'm talking to. If there's an issue, I don't know my driver, I don't even know that the person picking my groceries is getting anything positive out of their experience as an employee.

Emily: And it's never going to be the same person.

Kayleigh: It’s never going to be the same person. You can't build that relationship. And I think that's an important thing to us is feeling rooted in the community. And just because this is like a digital service doesn’t mean that it isn't part of the community. 

Emily: Well, thank you. That was great.

I thought we would just wrap up with me asking you if you have any funny and/or embarrassing and/or goofy anecdotes about launching the same-day delivery service that you'd like to share. 

Kayleigh: Well, I discovered that I don't really like riding a bike. But I really, really wanted to do the service the right way, even when it was just our neighbors ordering.

And I remember one time like lugging this heavy electric bike out of the break room, clipping on my helmet, like getting everything all ready to go and hopping on the bike...and realizing that the delivery was literally next door. And I could've walked it, but I'm really stubborn. So I biked it, about three feet up the hill. 

Emily: Excellent. Well, that seems like a wonderful place to wrap up. Thanks Kayleigh!

Kayleigh: Yay! Thanks.

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