Online Orders Are an Elixir Following COVID-19 Collapse

A Holstein, Iowa, meat producer now finds itself on the cusp of full-blown e-commerce thanks to a computerized online order system that the company was driven to adopt in response to COVID-19.

An order being assembled at
Tiefenthaler Quality Meats.

Tiefenthaler Quality Meats, a family-owned company known for its skinless brats and other meat products, originally approached CIRAS in March seeking help managing the online portion of a yearly anniversary sale. However, those conversations soon shifted when pandemic safety concerns led Tiefenthaler’s to close its retail store to customers. Tiefenthaler’s also cancelled the anniversary sale because of the pandemic and its impact on business.

Co-owner Shelly Tiefenthaler said the company was confused about how to continue serving customers curbside-only, so she contacted CIRAS project manager Paul Gormley for help. Gormley and other CIRAS-affiliated experts helped Tiefenthaler’s build a new online ordering system. On June 11, the company quietly turned on its new system and took roughly 350 orders during the first five days.

“It really has changed a lot of things,” Tiefenthaler said. “Our staff now stays busy filling online orders, but it’s much more efficient and organized now. We will be able to keep offering curbside service for those who don’t want to come in the store for their own personal reasons. We opened the store back up to walk-in customers in late July, but the curbside system is still going strong.”

The new digital storefront works with Tiefenthaler’s existing point-of-sale computer system, enabling online orders to flow directly into the company’s existing software. While business remains down from prepandemic levels, online orders now make up roughly one-half of all retail sales.

Other companies may benefit from a similar approach, Gormley said. Businesses that don’t feel like they have the logistical ability to track and fill online orders right now can still mimic larger competitors by offering the same curbside service.

“In the eyes of the customers, Tiefenthaler’s looks like a very grown-up business if it’s doing the same thing as major supermarkets,” Gormley said. “And ‘normal’ e-commerce can come directly out of what it takes to do that.”

Tiefenthaler said the company has not yet embraced full online sales because shipping companies can’t yet guarantee timely delivery in a pandemic-altered economy. But the company believes it’s on a good path, and it is thankful for CIRAS help salvaging its sales.

“CIRAS really helped us figure out the correct path, the correct way to do it,” Tiefenthaler said. “Had I not worked with them, I’m not sure where I would have started.”

For more information, contact Paul Gormley at or 319-721-5357.


A version of this article was published in the Winter 2021 edition of CIRAS News. To read more of that edition or others, please explore elsewhere on our website.