From fitness to food - how a family business thrived in lockdown offering local and artisan produce to Edinburgh residents

Douglas and Russell Smith joined forces to launch Edinburgh Food Delivery at the start of the pandemic, and business is thriving, finds Rosalind Erskine.

Founders of the Edinburgh Food Company, Douglas Smith (blue jumper) and Russell Smith

Brothers Douglas and Russell Smith had wanted to work together for a while, but with one running a successful catering company and the other managing his own online fitness business, there never seemed to be the right time. Until the start of the pandemic, as Douglas explained: “Russell had been working at The Edinburgh Catering Company - a wedding and events caterer which, at the start of this, saw cancellations of over 50 weddings. Russell had the food and drink connections from this and I had the tech-savvy so we decided to set up Edinburgh Food Delivery to bring local and artisan produce to people at a time when supermarkets were struggling and people weren’t keen to go out.”

The reaction from locals was so good that Douglas and Russell had to close the website for two days after launch as they couldn’t cope with the number of orders. “I think we got about 150 orders a day and it was just us and the staff we had, driving about trying to deliver all this food - something we had no experience in.” The team quickly got to grips with the new business, which has gone from strength to strength, even when the restrictions eased. “We identified that our customers loved the service from us and also the environmental side to our business - nothing is unnecessarily wrapped in plastic and produce is from local suppliers that some people didn’t know existed.” Douglas and Russell also offered shoppers access to ingredients usually only available to chefs, such as truffles - something that customers have enjoyed.

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Last year, the brothers took a chance on the growing popularity and took on two commercial units in order to keep up with demand and also increase their offering. They now supply items such as dairy produce from Yester Farm to seafood from Loch Fyne, beers from Drygate and a range of special editions gins and whiskies. As well as this they also have their own creations, such as beef wellingtons, sausage rolls and preserves (including foraged East Lothian sea buckthorn marmalade). This move has meant that Russell and Douglas have taken on more staff, including a development chef, as well as retaining the ones they had.

Founders of the Edinburgh Food Company, Douglas Smith and Russell Smith along with staff Louise Proctor, Sam Green and Nick Fulton.

The business is now in two parts - food production and the produce from local suppliers. To keep this under one roof, Douglas and Russell are moving again to a 4000 square foot warehouse near the Gyle, which they are converting into a production kitchen and distribution warehouse.

While customers can order online, those that need a bit of help or just want to chat through what they want can do so. “We get quite a lot of older people who have never ordered online so it's really nice to be able to talk people through the process and then take the delivery to the door. After a year, we’ve gotten to know a lot of them,” Douglas explained.

He added: “The customer support has been non-stop. A year in and we still have people that are ordering every week. They’ve discovered this love of local produce and cooking and it’s great to see.”