Patrick Murphy- Delivery Driver
5 months ago

Meet Patrick Murphy: L&B Lead Delivery Driver

Every day, all kinds of things get delivered around the Twin Cities, from furniture to flowers and lumber — and even people, as they get taxied and bussed across town. So why has Patrick Murphy, lead delivery driver at our Burnsville store, dedicated 14 years to delivering groceries? “I’m not a food expert or a chef, but I’ve always appreciated that food is both essential and enjoyable,” he says. “As drivers, we’re bringing people the food they need for health and dietary reasons, like allergies, but also the food they enjoy eating.”

“There’s so much personality in what we deliver,” he continues. “And right now, in the current COVID-19 climate, that feels even more important because it’s a controllable, comforting part of people’s lives — to have not only what they need but what they want too.”  

In truth, when Patrick Murphy came for his job interview at Lunds & Byerlys, he didn’t know what position he was interviewing for, what he’d be doing — it was top secret. Well, he knew there was a car involved. 

 

Starting up grocery delivery at Lunds & Byerlys 

It was 2006, and Lunds & Byerlys had just launched online shopping. Patrick had been working in a mortgage office, but it wasn’t a good fit. He decided to look for a position driving so he could be out and about in the world, interacting with folks and using his strengths. “It just so happened that Lunds & Byerlys was just starting delivery,” he says. “The funny thing was, it was still so new that they weren’t ready to advertise it, so when they brought me in for the interview, they couldn’t tell me what it was for, but I knew it involved driving.”

He was the first driver hired from outside the company, and he knew almost nothing about the grocery store business. “Most of the people in delivery were hired from within, so they knew all parts of the retail business, from the union to how to work the register,” he says. “My training was from the ground up, including things Lunds & Byerlys had never done before, like we all had to learn to use the order and delivery software so that we could train the shoppers and everybody who came in behind us.” 

All these years later, Lunds & Byerlys offers delivery throughout the Twin Cities and curbside pickup at all stores. “Now, I’m kind of an expert in the history of online grocery shopping and delivery.”

It’s an interesting time to have that long perspective on the field. Since Minnesota Governor Walz instituted the “stay at home” order for COVID-19, Lunds & Byerlys has had to rapidly shift the way it does business. “There have been a lot of changes in the stores with social distancing and the way people shop today,” Patrick says, “but it’s also had a big impact on delivery because we’ve had a huge spike in interest in online shopping, and just like in-store, we have to accomodate face-to-face interactions, respect boundaries, and keep each other safe.” 

 

Meeting the need for groceries while addressing a public health emergency

In fact, the number of people ordering food online and signing up for delivery has more than doubled. Before the pandemic, Patrick spent about 70 percent of his week on the road delivering groceries. Now, the bulk of his time is spent training in new drivers and personal shoppers, coordinating orders and delivery routes, and fielding calls from our customers. “The challenge during this time has been to scale up really quickly and meet customers’ needs in a way that aligns with our mission — while addressing a public health emergency.” 

Great customer service has always looked different on deliveries than it does in our stores, but not as different as you might think. In the store, we get to meet shoppers, see their families come in with them, help them find what they’re looking for in the aisles, and get to know their shopping habits and what they like. “Those are our roots,” says Patrick, “and what sets us apart is that we’ve maintained our brand of customer service in online shopping, so that we go beyond putting food in a van — we stay interactive with our customers, get to know their order history and make sure they know what they mean to us as customers.”

For example, Lunds & Byerlys drivers deliver food in a refrigerated van rather than their own cars so perishable foods stay chilled. We have a delivery app that works a lot like ride services: customers get a notification when their delivery is on its way, and they can follow the van on its journey. “We try to keep drivers on the same routes,” Patrick says. “So we’re seeing the same people, and we get to know our customers.”

 

Shifting the way we shop, drive and deliver during the pandemic 

During the pandemic, Patrick and the online shopping and delivery team have seen shifts in the whole process, including the foods our customers are ordering. “Right now, with the way people are interacting with their groceries, the focus is on the necessities,” he says. “They’re not going to get that fun spice blend because they just need something to put in the center of their dinner plate, so there’s a lot of interest in canned foods, baked goods, stuff you can have in the cupboard for a long time — it’s like emergency food or food for your bunkers.”

With the high demand for online shopping, Patrick says both delivery and pickup orders are taking longer to process. The top question he gets from customers these days is: how far out are deliveries? “We’re working every day to close that gap,” he says. “And our goal is to get it back to the point where we can have an order out to you within a day or two.”

In the meantime, his professional advice for online shoppers and everyone shopping in the pandemic is to balance an open mind with a little planfulness. “At home, we always want to be spontaneous, but this isn’t the time for that because we’re shopping less and there aren’t as many options,” he says. “So I’m trying to have an open mind about my tastes and expand my palate. You know, there are worse things than eating a lot of beans — they’re dang healthy for you.” 

“We’re also making meal plans, so on Sunday we look at the whole week and think realistically about what we’ll need to eat on Wednesday,” he explains. “And we shop for versatile ingredients, like a certain amount of meat and a certain amount of vegetables, so we might get some beef and have steaks one day and stew the next.”

 

Protecting our customers and each other with social-distancing

Delivery protocols have changed too. All the in-store shoppers and drivers wear gloves and masks. “At the end of our delivery shifts we wipe down the insides of vans and the doors,” Patrick says. “We’re all looking out for each other and trying to minimize the chance of spread.”

In more normal times, delivery drivers have always tried to do as much as they can for their customers. “We’ll even bring the groceries into the kitchen for them. We do stop short of putting them away,” he laughs, “but now we’re respecting social-distancing boundaries and keeping people safe, so we leave the groceries on the porch.” 

When we ask Patrick how the drivers feel about being out and about in the community right now, he answers without pause. “I just want to emphasize how great it is to work with the people I do. I’m just so amazed by them. For a lot of them, it’s not a full-time job or a career, but they come into it with such integrity,” he says. “They want to be working, they want to be out on delivery and they have a lot of pride for this service. It helps people in normal times, and it’s really helping the community now.”

 

Helping out in the community, today and every day

For Patrick, seeing his coworkers every day has helped him weather the pandemic. “I’m lucky in that my life hasn’t changed so dramatically because of this, and I get to go to work,” he says. “This is where I get a lot of my social time, it’s a nurturing environment and even though there’ve been a lot of changes, we’re still talking about everyday things — it can’t be COVID-19 all the time.” 

As the interview draws to a close, we wonder if this strange time in our history has changed Patrick’s own perspective on delivering groceries. “For me, it’s less of an epiphany than a good reminder,” he says. “Many of our customers are elderly or living with disabilities, and they don’t have the ability to go out and get groceries, so for them food delivery has always been essential. With COVID-19, there’s a bigger group that needs help getting food, and a lot of us are experiencing that need for the first time. It’s a good reminder to realize personally what that feels like.” 

“I like being able to help people, so I really like that it’s part of my job,” he adds. “It’s always benefited me in social ways, in terms of doing a job with a good social agenda, but right now it really feels good. I’m glad for it, I’m grateful for it.”