Founded by husband and wife duo Chef TJ & Jill Donovan in 2011, Donovan’s Dish began as a full-service catering provider, supplying tantalizing dishes - including fresh takes on Southern classics and signature dishes like Chef TJ’s Famous Shrimp & Grits or Pimento Cheese Stuffed Chicken - for weddings, corporate events and social gatherings across the greater Raleigh area. After finding success in the catering space, TJ & Jill began cooking up the next phase of Donovan’s Dish: an expanded kitchen space and physical storefront to house a take-out market, allowing Raleigh locals to swing by on a whim, pick up a ready-to-eat dinner and take the night off from cooking.
Tragically, just after opening their first take-out market in Apex, NC in 2016, TJ passed away suddenly, leaving behind a quickly growing culinary enterprise and three young daughters. Christine Sossi, Director of Operations for Donovan’s Dish to Door, says that the outpouring of support from friends, family and the community following TJ’s passing inspired the next phase of Donovan’s Dish: “Jill was the recipient of a meal train for months, from people near and far who wanted to help. This was an experience that Jill really wanted to be able to create: not just having little salads here and there that people can come in and shop for, but something that you can gift to other people, a family member, or just for yourself.”
“From that meal train that Jill had for months - people helping her and taking care of her and her three little girls - it was a game-changer.” And so the third branch of the Donovan’s empire was born: Donovan’s Dish to Door, providing the same chef-prepared, ready-to-eat meals Chef TJ and his team were known for, delivered directly to hungry customers throughout the Triangle.
Sossi highlights the flexibility and quality of Donovan’s Dish to Door’s delivery offerings as two of many reasons that keep customers coming back for more: “You don’t need to have a subscription or be locked into a contract. You can just place an order here or there, bulk up for the week, or if you have a family, come in and stock the freezer,” adding that Donovan’s Dish now operates two take-out markets to complement their catering and delivery offerings. “All of our meals are fully cooked, chef-prepared meals. The menu that's available at Dish to Door is the same that's in the market. Simply heat & eat, and take the day off from cooking!”
Before switching to the Shopify platform and EasyRoutes for planning optimized delivery routes, Sossi encountered numerous headaches with the existing tools used for processing online orders. “We were having a lot of problems with inventory control and syncing. We have to make sure that the inventory that's in our markets reflects online as well, because not only are the online orders rolling through, but we have people coming to shop in person. There were always glitches. It never synced properly. There was a delay with the syncing of the inventory - it took almost an hour for new numbers to hit online. We decided to switch to Shopify because it allows us the opportunity for growth.”
EasyRoutes has also helped significantly streamline Sossi’s daily route planning routine: “I really like the different filtering options that you can do with EasyRoutes, and the different segments that you can build. As soon as I log on and see the main Dashboard, you see the routes for the day, any important information right there. I have it set for today's deliveries and then future ones - I can click today's deliveries once, then click Create route, and it's done. The previous programs that I've used, there were still multiple steps to get to the end goal. But with EasyRoutes it’s: ‘Today's delivery is done.’ It's very simple.”
Delivering throughout the Raleigh Triangle provides challenges that will be familiar to many merchants catering to a delivery zone spanning urban, suburban, and rural areas. While participating in the beta testing phase of EasyRoutes’ new real-time driver location tracking feature, Sossi quickly realized what kind of impact real-time driver tracking could provide to their operations: “Even this morning, one of my drivers’ very first stops, his address went to the middle of a farm. He couldn't find the house. I was able to literally see where he was, see where the house was, and where he had to go to get to the back end of this property. I was able to help him do that by seeing where he was, and where he needed to go, all by using live tracking.”
Donovan’s Dish to Door delivery drivers also sing the praises of the EasyRoutes Delivery Driver mobile app, used to navigate between optimized stops and track inventory while completing deliveries. “It's a much more intuitive, smoother app for drivers to use while they're on the road. They have minimal distractions with it. It's very straightforward, and gives you a little map. Whenever they pull up to a specific stop, it shows you what the house actually looks like so they know what to keep an eye out for when they're driving around the neighborhoods. That's a feature that we did not have before, and they have told me numerous times how nice that is.” Sossi adds that EasyRoutes’ proof of delivery photos, captured upon successful delivery, frequently come in handy for delivery confirmation and providing additional peace of mind to customers.
Currently, with two or three drivers on the road on any given weekday, delivering as many as 50 orders daily, business is booming throughout the greater Raleigh area. However, shifting to Shopify for all ecommerce transactions was no coincidence: “Our goal is to create a shipping service. We will ship across the country. That is tucked in the back of our minds. We just moved into a brand new facility at the end of January. The kitchen at our previous location was small - we outgrew it. Now we have a gorgeous, huge, brand new kitchen. We have this space now where we can really develop everything.”
From a farmer’s porch outside Raleigh, to an urban apartment in Durham, and eventually to doorsteps nation-wide, Sossi summarizes Donovan’s Dish to Door’s goal simply: “We want to make everybody's lives easier; to give them the gift of time and Never Cook Again®. Giving the gift of time - it's a very special thing.”
If you’re local to the Raleigh Triangle, give the gift of time to a loved one (or yourself!) with Donovan’s Dish to Door. Fresh Feature dishes offer a selection of ready-to-eat meals, rotated daily - no thawing required! - that can be ordered for next-day delivery via EasyRoutes. Dozens of frozen breakfast, entree, salad, soup, side options and more - including those for gluten-free and vegetarian diets - are available for delivery Monday through Friday, or take-out from Donovan’s Dish market locations in Apex and Cary, North Carolina, Monday through Saturday.