Reading Terminal Market adapts as online orders skyrocket nearly 80-fold

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Reading Terminal Market is considered an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic, and as such, it is open for in-person shopping at fresh food merchants, as well as delivery services. 

But ever since the virus forced business closures and stay-at-home orders across the state, online orders have skyrocketed about 80 times more than usual.

Anuj Gupta, general manager of Reading Terminal, said the volume of online orders began to increase significantly on March 7, which was the last Saturday of the Philadelphia Flower Show.

“That was kind of the early onset of the crisis in the Philadelphia region,” he recalled.

The market launched its e-commerce and delivery service, Mercato, about a year-and-a-half ago. Up until that point, the market would receive about 50 online grocery orders a day. Now, more people than ever before are suddenly placing online orders.

“By the time we got to February 2020, we were doing on average maybe 50 orders a day, but with the COVID-19 crisis,” said Gupta, “we have surpassed 4,000 orders (in one day), and that has all happened within a span of three weeks.

“At the time, I was still getting email notifications every time a Mercato order came in, and my phone was blowing up.”

⚠️UPDATES⚠️ 1️⃣ Our hardworking fulfillment team officially surpassed more than 4,000 orders in one day. We are thankful for their hard work and grateful for every customer who is chosing to #RTMShop with our small businesses. 2️⃣ Starting today, April 2, there will be a 24 hour lead time on all orders. You can still get next day delivery, but to do so you'll have to place your order by 4 p.m. the day prior. 3️⃣ If you have any questions or concerns about your @shopmercato order, the best and quickest thing to do is call or email our help desk at (215) 922-2317 or --: Michael Bryant, @phillyinquirer

A post shared by Reading Terminal Market (@rdgterminalmkt) on Apr 2, 2020 at 7:03am PDT

To keep up with the demand, Gupta said they’ve had to rethink how they do business.

“The main seating area, what we refer to as Center Court, half of that has now become the fulfillment center,” he said, which is now filled with shelves and tables to organize orders.

“We very quickly realized we had nowhere near the capacity that we would need, and so within a matter of days, we started hiring people part time,” he added.

Although online orders are not making up for lost revenue, the online portion of the business is still growing.

“Once the crisis ebbs, I think the volume of online orders will fall from where we are today, but it will be substantially more than what our norm was before the crisis started,” Gupta said. 

We are getting a lot of questions about whether we are open to the public in addition to grocery delivery. YES - as a grocery destination, we are designated an essential business and customers are able to come #RTMShop our fresh food & grocery merchants in person if they wish (safe social distancing is encouraged throughout the Market). What does that mean for our prepared food/restaurant merchants? Many are also open for TAKEOUT/DELIVERY ONLY. You must call ahead or order online and complete payment over the phone.

A post shared by Reading Terminal Market (@rdgterminalmkt) on Mar 30, 2020 at 7:23am PDT

The market is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is offering free delivery for orders within a 16-mile radius.

Parking is free if shoppers opt for curbside pickup.