Digital Success for Eltana in the Era of COVID-19 🥯

Grant Birkinbine
7 min readMar 1, 2021

Eltana is a wood fired bagel café located in Seattle, WA. Home to some famous Montreal style bagels and great coffee.

Photo of bagels and cream cheese

Intro 💡

The pandemic shifted the way customers interact with their favorite cafes almost overnight. Restaurants had to adapt to serve their customer’s digitally in a world where food and people always went hand in hand.

Eltana had already been focusing on its digital customer experience for a while now with online pickups, preorders, and catering. This ultimately helped Eltana be well positioned for a huge shift in customer behavior during COVID-19. By having a solid digital presence and foundation, Eltana was able to pivot and quickly adjust for a drop in physical customer interactions and a sharp increase in online sales. For Eltana, there was a key area that they needed to conquer to succeed. That area was online delivery.

The Problem 💥

The challenges that Eltana (and many other restaurant businesses) faced was online sales. Eltana needed a way to shift from in-store transactions to a hybrid online business to succeed. They needed to make this shift rapidly and work with their existing infrastructure and staff. This article will explain how I designed and implemented an online ordering and delivery routing engine on top of Eltana’s existing infrastructure with zero licensing, zero monthly fees, and with entirely serverless infrastructure.

Eltana’s Requirements:

Eltana needs to be able to do large deliveries each day. Eltana has their own delivery vans and drivers which they use to fulfill large event and group orders (think birthday parties, corporate events, etc.) so they have the equipment and staff to handle bulk orders already. Now they need the code to process, route, and ultimately get bagels to customers.

  • Customers need to be able place an order online
  • Orders need to be routed in the most efficient manner
  • Delivery drivers need to be able to follow this route via a phone or tablet
  • Bakers need item totals so they can prep before orders go out
  • No added licensing, hardware, monthly costs, or overhead

The Solution ✔️

The solution included several components and met all the requirements stated above:

Tech Stack:

Square Online Store 🥯:

The Square Online Store is a front end service which customers interact with to place their orders. They place an order for the “Neighborhood” they are apart of and then their order is delivered in that neighborhood batch. Store available here 🔗.

Image of Eltana’s Online Store with Square
Eltana’s Online Store — Square

Routing Engine ⚙️:

The Routing Engine (Engine from here on out) was truly the bread 🍞 and butter 🧈 of this project.

What does it do?

At a high level, the Engine inputs customer orders and outputs them in an routed list. This allows delivery drivers to efficiently deliver their bagels in the morning.

Let’s dive in!

  • The inputs for the engine are customer orders 💁
  • The output of the Engine is a Delivery Manifest 📃

The inputs are collected when the Engine runs. These inputs are customer orders which include name, address, items, and any notes the customer left for delivery.

"orders": [
"id": "7227c0c1-198f-3719-a32d-d99a61d33589",
"neighborhood": "WEST-SEATTLE",
"address": "1234 1st Avenue N",
"city": "Seattle",
"state": "WA",
"zip": "98101",
"name": "Indiana Jones",
"phone": "+1 123-456-7890"

The outputs are one or multiple Delivery Manifests which are emails containing all routed orders, their details, and spreadsheets for order preparation. Real world example below — Note: customer data and revenue have been obfuscated.

Eltana Manifest
Eltana Order Totals — Manifest
Eltana Google Maps Links — Manifest
screenshot of manifest
screenshot of manifest
Orders that encounter routing issues are attached at the bottom for managers to manually process
screenshot of order spreadsheets
Order Info CSV Attachments

How The Engine Works ⚙️

The Engine can either be triggered manually through the management web app (more on this later) or via a scheduled ⏰ Lambda trigger. The Lambda trigger goes off every night at 11:00pm PST. Either way, the trigger provides the Neighborhood for which orders are to be routed. For example, if triggered via the web app, a manager provides a Neighborhood to collected and route all orders within. This way all orders for West Seattle can be routed together for delivery the next day.

Once triggered the Engine searches for all orders within the supplied Neighborhood from Square’s Order API. These orders are collected and stored in memory.

Once all the orders for a given “Neighborhood” are collected the Engine translates all the addresses into coordinates, sequences those coordinates via an algorithm that searches for the fastest route, and then populates that route into a usable Google Maps URL 📍 for the delivery drivers. The Engine then kicks off an automated email with the routing sequence and all relevant order data. This email is referred to as the Delivery Manifest as seen in screenshots above.

High Level Diagram 🗺️

Architectural Diagram of the Routing Engine

Management Console — Web App 👨‍💻

For ease of use, Eltana’s managers are also able to trigger Manifests with a few clicks via a custom web app. This allows for Manifests to be regenerated if orders come in late, if unexpected errors occur, or in case they want to tweak the routing algorithm (shortest vs fastest).

Eltana Web App Screenshot
Eltana Web App for Manifest Generation

Upon clicking GENERATE 🚀 a manager can expect a Manifest to land in their inbox in less than 60 seconds.

Costs 💸:
Since this entire project is based off of Serverless technology that is within the “always free / free tier” of AWS there are zero monthly costs associated with this project’s infrastructure. In addition to that, there was no added licensing or service fees. This is because the Square Online Store and API are free for businesses that use their POS solutions already. Here API is also free under 250K requests per month for commercial use (which Eltana is well under).

Measuring Success 📈

Cool, so that’s a lot of tech. But does it work?

In order to see if this investment in technology is actually worth it we need to measure the outcomes before and after. Luckily, we have data to back us up!


In the era before COVID, Eltana was accepting its own online orders through Formstack for pick-up and delivery. The delivery orders were more geared towards group catering and events, while the pick-ups were for typical customers on the go. This data goes all the way back to 2018.

Number Crunching Time

The year prior to COVID-19 (Feb 2019 — Feb 2020) Source: Formstack data export

  • Total Online Orders: 195
  • Total Bagels Sold Online: 2465

COVID-19 era (Feb 2020 — Feb 2021 time of writing) Source: Square Online Store data export

  • Total Online Orders: 8,100
  • Total Bagels Sold Online: 115,173

More Numbers COVID-19 era…

  • 4053.85% increase in online sales
  • 4536.75% increase in online bagels sold
  • 9340 bagel spreads sold
  • 10.52% cart conversion rate (All time) — Last 30 days 15.65%
  • 6.83% true conversion rate (All time) — Last 30 days 10.49%

How about sales?

Not only were sales strong right from the start, they continued to stay strong and are even increasing gradually from the beginning of 2020.

Sales Graph
COVID ERA Online Sales

So back to our opening question…

Cool, so that’s a lot of tech. But does it work?

Yes, yes it does!

We can see that from the start of Eltana’s Online ordering platform, sales are strong and they continue to stay strong. Conversion rate is also out performing for the restaurant category as well. On top of all that… we see a whopping 4536.75% increase in bagels sold through online channels and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. Success! 🍾🎉

Boxes of bagels waiting to go out for delivery
Boxes of bagels waiting to go out for their online delivery :)


What problems have we solved?

  • Customers are able to easily place an order online
  • Orders are routed in their most efficient manner for delivery drivers
  • Delivery drivers are be able to follow this route via a phone or tablet
  • Bakers have item totals so they can prep before orders go out
  • No added licensing, hardware, monthly costs, or overhead
  • Eltana can still utilize existing infrastructure: delivery vans, Square POS, prep kitchens, and employees
  • Eltana is able to prep, route, and deliver to distant neighborhoods with 300+ orders 🎉

PS if you want to check out the Online Store where the magic happens, here is the link

Closing Thoughts 🥯

This year, the pandemic has proven concretely that being able to adapt rapidly is a requirement for success. This is especially true when it comes to technology. Technology can no longer be an afterthought, especially for businesses that have not traditionally relied on it as a core part of their businesses. Investing in technology doesn’t have to be difficult or scary either, in Eltana’s case it was an enhancement to their pre-existing work flows that allowed them to fulfill more orders, do so efficiently, and with zero monthly costs.

Technology can be your best friend, so embrace it.