Laughter, Humility, Dedication: The Heart of Community Service

office fresh fruit delivery

Harvest Project Food Rescue keeps its feet on the ground and a smile on its face.

It’s early Saturday morning. Danae Gutierrez pulls into Lipman Family Farms, a massive produce wholesaler, driving her old white pickup with her son Dorian riding along. She uses it because it gets the job done. She makes this trip every Saturday morning, because she gets the job done. Her mission: to pick up as much unsalable but sufficiently edible produce as the flatbed will allow, and drive it down to one of several locations throughout DFW – in this case, San Francisco De Asis Episcopal Church – where a team of volunteers will work to sort the food for redistribution.

It’s called the Harvest Project Food Rescue, and each word in the name is completely accurate.

“We didn’t even have a name when we first started!” laughs Ms. Gutierrez, recalling the origins of an organization that started, and has remained, humble. “We didn’t have a truck or anything. We really started with nothing. That’s why I couldn’t take all the grapefruit!”

To explain that statement necessitates a bit of history…

Gutierrez and her parents emigrated to the United States when she was seven. With low income potential, her family often experienced food insecurity, unsure of where their next meals would come from. For this reason and many others, her parents placed a high value on education, and Danae’s intellect and vibrant, outgoing personality served her well throughout her formative years. She is not afraid of hard work and is willing to step in when she sees that “somebody needs to do it!”

When her son Dorian became a student at Cigarroa Elementary in Dallas, she saw a need for leadership at the PTA. Before long, she was elected President, and even received a DISD Volunteer Impact Award for School Support. During this time, she met Luis Carrillo, a fellow PTA board member who was also working with Dallas Mexico Casa Guanajuato, a community center serving the Mexican citizens of Dallas. Carrillo was seeking quality produce for the senior citizens, as the contributions they were receiving were not always usable. Gutierrez said, “well, somebody needs to do it”, and in the summer of 2014, she went about the process of talking to the produce wholesalers near the Farmers Market.

“I went to this one place, and they had twenty-five boxes of beautiful grapefruit!” Gutierrez recalls. “They had a couple of blemishes on the skin, so they weren’t for sale, but they were in great shape. So I took a box and they were saying, ‘when are you coming back for the other twenty-four?’” She laughs and says, “That’s when I realized there were literal tons of produce going to waste, and we just had to get it to the people who needed it.”

Ms. Gutierrez smiles as she recalls the origins of Harvest Project, as she smiles about many things. Her positivity and tenacity transform the seemingly onerous task of food rescue into a positive mission.

Since 2014, Harvest Project has grown – cautiously, responsibly, and humbly. Gutierrez wants to be sure the nonprofit never gets so ambitious that it overreaches its primary purpose. “We don’t want to have people who are counting on us to be waiting around, because we’re spending too much time going too many places.” In a given month, Harvest Project will take its seven vehicles to seven locations – some weekly, some semi-weekly, some monthly. They now serve thousands of families every month in locations ranging from South Dallas to Arlington.

The volunteer arm is fully self-supporting, in that all of those who serve at each site are participants. Gutierrez explains, “The people who assist are willing to show up early and get things sorted and set up, because they get first choice of the produce.” As always, humility is the acme of the project, and this is a big part of the training as well: since the volunteers are participants, it is made clear that they are to treat their fellow recipients as equals. “We won’t allow people to be like, ‘oh, we’re the ones giving you the food, so we’re better than you.’ Because the volunteers are receiving contributions, and getting first pick of the produce is a perk, everyone’s in the same boat – and we usually have too many volunteers! There’s a waiting list of people willing to help.”

The process of “food rescue” goes beyond distribution. Participants in the programs are given valuable tips on preparation, storage, financially-responsible shopping…even composting. Self-support is always the goal.

While the organization may have started with Hispanic leanings, the participants and volunteers come from all over the globe, as one would expect when dealing with a community as culturally-varied as DFW. “Food insecurity can affect everyone,” Gutierrez says, “and it was humbling for me to find that even I had assumptions of what need looked like, and every week I see proof that it’s a challenge that transcends cultures.” But just as the challenges can be transcendent, so too can solutions, and participants work find ways of overcoming language and ideological barriers to make Harvest Project work.

Sometimes these differences can provide educational opportunities. “In one area, we have a lot of participants who are refugees from Myanmar,” Gutierrez says, “and I was picking up the produce to bring to that mission, and I got all these banana leaves. I thought, ‘What is anyone going to do with a banana leaf?’ So we get out there, and all these refugees got so excited! I didn’t know that in Myanmar banana leaves are used like husks are used for tamales in Mexico. Not only did I learn something new about a culture, but also I now know how to use a banana leaf to make food in my home!”

The key to the success of Harvest Project Food Rescue is a clarity of purpose, and humility. Provide produce and education for communities in DFW experiencing food insecurity one banana at a time – and with a smile.

ORCHARD At The OFFICE, the largest office fruit delivery service in Texas, is proud to contribute to such an important organization, and salutes the inspiring work of Ms. Gutierrez, who has been a member of the ORCHARD At The OFFICE team since 2017. We are grateful to the many others like her in every community, whose names so often go unmentioned.

If you would like to make a donation to Harvest Project Food Rescue, visit http://www.harvestproject.co/donation.

For office fruit delivery anywhere in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, visit https://orchardattheoffice.com/home.php.

20 Questions with Orchard At The Office

office fresh fruit delivery

Today, we’re playing 20 Questions with Kevin Long and Chris Buchanan of the Richardson-based office fruit delivery service ORCHARD At The OFFICE, who have served the Dallas/Fort Worth area since 2010.

Q: Describe your company in fifteen words or less.

BUCHANAN: We deliver fresh fruit to Metroplex offices.

LONG: That’s it. Seven words.

BUCHANAN: Do we win anything?

LONG (laughing): I don’t think it’s a competition.

Q: Where did the name “ORCHARD At The OFFICE” come from?

LONG: I wanted a name that told a story, that gave a clear mental image and conveyed a journey. Here, in this basket of fruit, you have an orchard…right here at your office! It’s worked well for us.

office fresh fruit delivery

Q: Give us a Fun Fruit Fact we may not know.

BUCHANAN: If you took every fruit on the planet, laid them side by side, and attempted to name them all aloud, you’d irritate people. Even Harlan Pepper would tell you to stop naming fruits.

LONG: One thing I like to show people is how to peel a banana from the bottom, the way monkeys do.

BUCHANAN: And when you do it that way, you don’t get the phloem.

LONG: Right. That’s the technical name for the stringy matter inside a banana.

BUCHANAN: I should have made that my fact. (sighs) I had my chance, but it’s gone forever.

Q: Speaking of bananas, what’s this “bananigans” thing all about?

LONG: It’s really a state of mind, a reminder that health and happiness go together. Whether it’s the “banana smile” or juggling clementines, moments of silliness provide levity that add dimension to a workday.

Kevin Long and Chris Buchanan banvnigans
Bananigans at D Magazine

clementine

Q: You describe yourself as a “local business”. What exactly does this mean to you?

BUCHANAN: Well, the company was founded right here in the Metroplex – Richardson, specifically. Our home office is here, our staff lives here, and our fruit is sourced from here. While it may be grown elsewhere – I’m certainly not aware of any pear orchards in Rowlett or Euless – the lifeblood of this business is Dallas. These are our friends and neighbors we’re serving.

Q: What’s the most popular fruit in Dallas?

BUCHANAN: Bananas are by far the favorite. We sell tons every week – and that’s not a figure of speech.

LONG: Yeah, bananas are the most popular, but whenever I’m in a conversation with someone, I’ll often ask them what their favorite fruit is. So many times, people say mangoes! I’m not sure why that is, because I don’t see nearly as many people actually eating a mango, but that’s what they say.

BUCHANAN: They could be lying.

LONG: Yeah, they may be lying.

Texas favorite fruit

Q: So what’s your favorite fruit?

BOTH (in unison): Mangoes.

Q: What are the smallest and largest offices you serve?

BUCHANAN: There’s one business with only three people, but they’re very dedicated to healthy living, so they go through our 16-piece Mini Office Basket every week. As the Metroplex is the home to so many large-scale operations, we’ve created options for everyone, such as our “Fortune 600 Special”. This helps us serve companies with over 1,500 employees.

Q: What do you do with any surplus fruit?

LONG: When we’re doing really well, there’s barely anything left over at the end of the week! When there is, we donate it primarily to two organizations: the Harvest Project, and the Samaritan Inn in McKinney.

Q: Tell us more about the Harvest Project.

BUCHANAN: Harvest Project is an amazing organization. It was started in 2014 by Danae Gutierrez, who has served on the DISD board and is truly an inspiring individual. It’s a community project that provides fresh produce to families in need at no cost. They’ll provide fruits and vegetables, give recipes and instructions where appropriate, even teach them to shop for bargains. Like Ms. Gutierrez, Harvest Project represents real, grass-roots action to promulgate positive change in Dallas.

Danae Gutierrez of Harvest Project
Danae Gutierrez of Harvest Project

Q: What do you suggest Dallas can do as a whole to stay more fit?

LONG: Eat more fruit, of course!

BUCHANAN: Yes. Beyond that, though, we don’t make nutritional suggestions. We leave the dietary recommendations to those far more qualified. Besides, there’s very little consensus and we try to stay out of the fray!

Q: Understood. That said, are there some more pragmatic tips you can suggest?

BUCHANAN: Some things are fairly straightforward. We did contribute a blog post to D Magazine awhile ago with some basic suggestions for how to stay healthy at the office, five minutes at a time.

Q: Along the same lines, how did y’all get involved with the Dallas Running Club?

LONG: That started in 2016 with one of our administrators, Leah Hinton. She’s friends with Erin and Sean Jett, who served on the DRC Board at the time. They were looking for a business willing to donate bananas to their races, and since we believe very strongly in the maintenance of a vital running community for Dallas, we’re happy to help! It’s a great partnership.

BUCHANAN: Yeah, the Dallas Running Club means a lot to us. My wife is an athlete who has logged more miles than I care to count and the whole history of the DRC, Tal Morrison, and White Rock Lake as a sort of “running sanctuary” are fascinating to me. It really feels like we’re part of something special.

Dallas Running Club Race
Orchard At The Office provides bananas for Dallas Running Club races

Q: What are the trendy fruits right now?

LONG: Avocados are the biggest trending fruit right now. Last year, America spent more importing avocados than any other fruit, including bananas. That is an entirely new development, and our sales reflect the popularity of avocados.  office avocado

BUCHANAN: Definitely. I’d also have to say that clementines, also known as “Halos” or “Cuties”, do extremely well. There’s actually several different varieties of citrus we conveniently call “clementines”, and they’re all delicious and have lots of mouth-watering appeal!

LONG: Chris handles our marketing, as you can tell.

BUCHANAN: Fresh fruit, y’all! Visit our website right now! ORCHARD At The OFFICE 

Q: What’s the most unusual fruit you’ve ever sold?

LONG: Durian!

BUCHANAN: Oy vey. Here we go…

LONG: He hates durian, but I love it. Durian’s an Asian fruit that looks like a giant pod – about the size of jackfruit but even more spiky – and when you open it, the edible fruit almost has a banana pudding consistency.

BUCHANAN: And there all resemblance ends.

LONG: It does have this very complex, powerful aroma. I get why people don’t like it, but I find it fascinating. Eating durian is an event!

BUCHANAN: So’s a tsunami. All I’m saying is that there’s a reason it’s banned on Singapore Rapid Mass Transit. It’s exponential: it starts off smelling like a field of chives, then comes the sulfurous essence, then what can only be described as a “rotting” smell kicks in. Then it’s like they all compete with one another to see which can fill the room quicker. And that pretty much describes the flavor.

LONG: Hey, I’m not saying everyone will like them. More for me, that’s what I say!

Q: Talk about the “seven banana myth”.

BUCHANAN: OK, I learned about this from Karl Pilkington…and when I say “learned”, it was clearly some sort of nonsensical urban myth. The idea was something to the effect that if you ate more than six bananas in a day, you’d have a lethal potassium overdose. It’s been thoroughly debunked in a number of studies, of course, but like Twinkies or zombies, misinformation has no shelf life – it’s always staggering back from its grave to eat the brains of the living.

Q: From a delivery standpoint, what’s your favorite building in Dallas?

LONG: I’ve always liked delivering to the Comerica Bank Tower. The freight dock is efficient, the security staff is courteous and professional, and the entire building is very attractive and easy to get around.

Orchard basket with Hunt Bridge

Q: Are there things you’ve learned about Dallas as a result of delivering fruit here that you didn’t know before?

BUCHANAN: Well, I’ve certainly gotten to know all the local structures and the business that dwell within them. I used to go to Klyde Warren Park, for instance, and I’d look around and think “oh, there’s that cool new building with the blue glass, and there’s the one with the D Magazine logo” and so on. Now I’m thinking of the building names, and exactly which business is in there, and which ones are our customers and which ones will be.

Q: What kind of music could we expect to hear at ORCHARD At The OFFICE headquarters?

LONG: That totally depends on who’s in the office! You could hear everything from ambient to metal. I like to have music going to keep the brain’s alpha waves going. But every once in a while, I’ll mix it up with some Tool or Van Halen.

BUCHANAN: I gravitate toward jazz fusion or any music that Outcry Theatre might employ in one of their amazing shows. I love the music of Tori Amos and Sigur Rós, and that sometimes creates problems as I find myself listening to it a bit too much and getting all emotional and weepy.

Q: Sell me fruit. Right now.

BUCHANAN: Our fruit really sells itself. Quite often, if we make people aware that there’s this office fruit delivery service in Dallas, that concept generates interest.

LONG: Everybody loves fresh fruit. “Would you like a banana?”

BUCHANAN: I would, actually. Let’s go eat.

LONG: Sounds good.

fresh fruit basket
Premium-quality fresh fruit for Texas offices

Providing Superior Customer Service

superior customer serviceAs ORCHARD At The OFFICE is firmly in the service sector, superior customer service is the principle by which our company lives and dies. Our organization simply must be experts in how to provide great customer service. Everything comes down to managing customer expectations. There is an art to this, which at times requires utter pragmatism and a bit of “going with a gut feeling.” Still, there are the general principles to which one can adhere. Below are examples of the premises by which ORCHARD At The OFFICE operates.

Immediate Response to Customers

We pride ourselves on a 24-hour turnaround in resolving customer issues. Key to that is communicating back: if they leave a message, return the call. If they send an e-mail, reply right away. Simply validating the customer’s concerns by acknowledging the message was received and a resolution is forthcoming goes a long way. It is a vital component of how to retain customers.

Inform Customers of Temporary Difficulties

At ORCHARD At The OFFICE, “our problems are NOT your problem”. In the coming months, the oranges we supply will be less plentiful owing to Hurricane Irma’s impact on the U.S. crop. We are taking the position that this will not impact what our customers pay for our product. However, during the hot summer months when citrus crops, in general, are not of the quality one can find the rest of the year, we have learned to let our customers know in advance, and to offer alternatives. Customer service sometimes means heading issues off at the pass.

Give a Little to Get a Lot

There’s an attitude of caring and a system designed to promulgate superior customer care. That’s why, at ORCHARD At The OFFICE, “the buck stops here.” Getting fresh fruit to your business is all we do and that is the heart of superior customer service.

Chris Buchanan is the Operations Wiseapple for ORCHARD At The OFFICE.
getfruit@orchardattheoffice.com
Visit http://orchardattheoffice.com to get healthy fruit delivered to your D/FW business.

The Best Banana For the Buck

The best in fresh fruit delivery for D/FW

An office fruit delivery company’s value proposition keeps them lean and hungry.

Richardson-based ORCHARD At The OFFICE started in October 2010 with a single and simple concept: delivering fresh fruit to businesses in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex. It’s proved to be a winning idea and we’ve long been the largest office fruit delivery service in north Texas. Our hundreds of clients have staff sizes ranging from two to two thousand, and we treat each of their regular deliveries with the same care we’d show our best friends.

As the Operations Wiseapple, I’ve gotten to see firsthand what’s worked for us, and thought about what might be useful for other small businesses in any industry. It would be accurate to say the keys to our success have been “perseverance”, “focus”, or “determination”, but these generalities do not inherently guarantee longevity. Many businesses founded on good ideas fail. The entrepreneurs involved had loads of determination and focus, and persevered until the bitter end. What’s been the difference for us, in a practical sense?

While there are many answers, some of which I’m too involved to divine, a primary principle I can share involves responsible use of budgets. In our office, we call it getting “the best banana for the buck”. Quite simply, when dealing with any expense, we ask ourselves “will this improve the quality of our customer’s experience?”

A question like this can cause one to be either miserly or extravagant. It can result in spending an exorbitant amount of time and dime attempting to quantify the effects of spending. (“Did customer’s perceptions of our service increase or decrease when our representatives wore salmon-colored collared shirts as opposed to navy?”) I can’t speak to what’s right for every business, but I can freely share our own experience, based on trial-and-error, that’s helped us walk an acceptable middle path.

Aesthetic Value: A Modest-But-Inviting Workplace

During the boom-and-bust of the “dot.com bubble” in the late 1990s, one trend stood out to me more than any other: given a tremendous amount of speculative seed capital, startup companies would rent lavish office space, often laden with sleek Scandinavian furniture, and spare no expense to make their working environment impressive to customers and inviting to talented employees. Of course, most of these web-based firms hadn’t actually worked out monetization, and the predictable result, as history illustrates, was that most went belly-up, sooner than later.

Our takeaway from this was to make sure we found the line between an overly-Spartan and ostentatious workspace. To give a few practical examples: do we need to spend money hiring professionals to stencil our logo on the walls? Not for us. We’re fairly certain our employees know where they are and who they work for. Do we really need nice furniture or fancy artwork? To these, we answered: yes, to a point. We do want our employees to feel comfortable – simple amenities like a couch to relax or healthy snacks (including the fresh fruit we supply) have been shown in studies to create more productive employees. But we have found no added value in buying expensive new furniture, and at the same time we didn’t want to chuck some smoky craigslist abomination of a sofa into a dimly-lit “break room”. Instead, we simply brought surplus items from home and encouraged staff to do the same. It’s created a cozy, eclectic environment that makes hours seem easier and lets dollars go farther.

Driven by Principle: Spreading the Word

On the one hand, a family business must be realistic about its budget. On the other hand, if it only spends like – or thinks like – a family business, that’s all it will ever be. ORCHARD At The OFFICE wants to make sure people are aware of who we are and what we do, but how do we best accomplish that?

This is where the “quality of experience” yardstick comes into play. It would not, in our estimation, help existing or prospective customers enjoy our fruit more if we invested in wraps for our delivery vehicles. Instead, that money is invested in making sure the vehicles we own work, and reliably. Money spent on maintenance goes much farther than money spent on décor, though of course, the two are not mutually exclusive. Additionally, ORCHARD At The OFFICE made the decision many years ago that it would make more sense to pay for someone else’s well-maintained vehicles than try to own a fleet of our own, and so we rent vans as needed throughout the week. We’ve found it works better than asking drivers to put mileage on their own cars (to which they may not apply the same maintenance standards), while keeping us from having to pay for an abundance of vehicles that don’t need to be in service on a daily basis.

So this frees up some money – but where to use it? Our goal isn’t just to have minimal expense, and we still need to promote it. For us, there’s been a variety of methods, but one that’s been of benefit to us (and would be to many others) has been to look to contribute to civic organizations with goals similar to our own.

A primary example is our partnership with the Dallas Running Club, who host a race nearly every month. We’ve been supplying bananas for the athletes to enjoy at the finish line for quite some time, and the exposure has been invaluable. It’s an obvious example of a win-win, and we’re happy to know that regardless of the outcome, we’ve helped contribute to a healthier Dallas! After all, that is the bedrock upon which ORCHARD At The OFFICE was built.

These specific instances may be unique to us, but they are again meant to be illustrative of how the principle of “best banana for the buck” (or “best product for the dollar”, or “best service per cent”) can be applied to all facets of a business, great or small.

Use the Entire Apple

I cannot verify if any group of people, indigenous or otherwise, made use of every bit of any animal they hunted. I can only say that for our business, the idea of repurposing as much as possible has helped us control costs and aided in budget decisions.

To give one example: the Jazz apples we use arrive in cardboard boxes. Obviously, we sell the apples, but what to do with the boxes? The answer was quite simple: for those who wanted a greater quantity of fruit but didn’t require the aesthetic appeal of our trademark baskets, we offered the Office Select Box. The produce is all still hand-selected to guarantee quality, but we don’t spend the money on presentation in a fancy box emblazoned with our logo. This helps us keep the cost down, and instead put the packaging money into buying the baskets for those who want them.

This idea holds true with all our fruit boxes – we use them, as is, for shipping and distribution wherever possible. We let the quality of the product be our brand, and in that regard, we spare little expense. The aforementioned Jazz apples cost considerably more than the thick-skinned Red Delicious doled out to you in the school cafeteria…and with good reason. They’re objectively better quality, and thus meet our criteria of “best banana for the buck”.


 

Perhaps your organization operates under an entirely different premise. You may read every sentence I’ve written and think “we would do the exact opposite”. If that is your reaction, I will still feel I have done a service as my goal is not to seek agreement, but to get small business managers thinking. Considering the “how” and “why” of success allows us to continue down the right path while perhaps taking corrective steps. I certainly encourage other entrepreneurs (or those who work alongside them, as I do) to put their own thoughts and ideas to paper, ideally after enjoying some fresh fruit from ORCHARD At The OFFICE!

To inquire about fresh fruit delivery for your office, visit http://orchardattheoffice.com, e-mail getfruit@orchardattheoffice.com or call 972.295.9091.

Fresh Fruit Delivery Is A Favorite Amenity

office fresh fruit delivery

Fresh fruit delivery straight to the office is just another reason to love where you work. In addition to quick response times by facilities departments, amenities is the keyword in the world of creating office homes for businesses. “An amenity package can make a statement that differentiates a building from the competition” states a white paper from Colliers International. Not surprisingly, one of the most desired amenities is accessible food options.

Amenities Make An Impact

Increasingly, property managers and leasing offices are finding value in office fresh fruit delivery from ORCHARD At The OFFICE.  Amenities demonstrate a personal concern for tenant welfare that can make the difference in where a business makes its home. Fresh fruit delivery is an affordable, high-impact offering that virtually every tennant appreciates.

When Transwestern’s Aimee Robinson wanted to go above and beyond for her tenants, she let them know that every Monday morning, ORCHARD At The OFFICE would be arriving with a wide variety of fruit. The response was immediate and overwhelming!  Last month, when the Granite Properties acquired the building, the management team quickly saw the value of maintaining the arrangement.

Set Your Workspace Apart

Most office buildings tout conference centers, restaurants, and in-house conveniences. Making a special note of the availability of superior-quality fresh fruit delivery from ORCHARD At The OFFICE adds one more item in the plus column for current and prospective lessees.

Shared office spaces have made amenities their key differentiator since their inception. In 2015, Meridian Business Centers made fresh fruit supplied by ORCHARD At The OFFICE available to the tenants at all thirteen of their Metroplex locations. Tenant satisfaction has increased and delivery drivers note that there’s never a single piece of fruit left when they arrive to refill the kitchen bowls.

Personalized Attention

“We get a lot of positive feedback about the fruit,” says Chelsea Bascom, manager of Meridian’s Las Colinas location. “It’s important for our clients to feel they’re getting personalized attention. That really comes across in the details, and that includes providing fresh fruit.”

“I love having the service available,” says Brad Wohlander, CEO of Sentry Global Technologies, who offices with Atrium Executive Business Centers. “It’s great to know when I arrive in the morning there’s a banana or an apple waiting for me.”


To inquire about fresh fruit delivery for your building or office, visit http://orchardattheoffice.com, e-mail getfruit@orchardattheoffice.com or call 972-295-9091.