How quickly life (and blog posts) can change – catering during the start of a pandemic.

Last Friday Evening…

I am not going to write about Coronovirus. Not yet, anyway. Eventually, I know I will have to. I will have to write about catering during the start of a pandemic. It’s consuming our airwaves, economy and thought-lives at the moment. It seems that I cannot go half a day without having a conversation about the fowl disease. So, it was a blessed relief to turn my thoughts to the positive process of providing food for the ExtraCare Charitable Trust this week.

Our luxury cheese board selection, with olives and crackers, piled with fruit.

After a hair raising battle with Friday afternoon traffic on the Birmingham inner ring road, I was calmed instantly as I entered a room filled with the quiet gentle chatter of couples and families.

For those who are not in the know, the ExtraCare Charitable Trust builds and maintains luxury retirement villages for those aged fifty-five and over. The drop-in session was organised for about fifty prospective buyers for said properties. I have to say, after enjoying a tour of the village, I was sorely tempted to put an offer in myself; the accommodation was exquisite.

The Food…

At our client’s request, the food platters we provided were filled with luxury cheeses. Amongst them were Camembert, a gorgeous chilly infused Cheddar and a Farmhouse Leicester. The Gouda slices and Goats cheese went down very well with the punters. The cheeses were accompanied by olives, a luxury cracker selection and piles of prepared sliced fruits.

The luxury cheese board platters laid out for the ExtraCare Charitable Trust.

As people came and went, arriving, chatting and enjoying looking around the aptly named “Solihull Village Apartments”, they grazed on the cheese and fruit selection, sipping wine and browsing the catalogues. It was a thoroughly pleasant, enjoyable social event.

Five Days Later…

I write these concluding remarks half a week later than the previous paragraphs. Boy! Has life changed since the event last Friday. The ExtraCare Charitable Trust would not be holding such an event now that the “social distancing” policy has come into effect. The blog post I thought I was going to write has morphed, as C-19 inflicts its increasing control over our lives. I feel like I went through a watershed moment for my business this week. One 5pm TV briefing, and my whole business world is rocked. 

In order to not feel overwhelmed, I have deliberately limited myself to only watching the new daily C-19 briefing. I watch with apprehension; everyday brings a new shocking twist or development.

In some senses, life continues for many: kids go to school, people pop to the shops, workers keep going with their shifts where possible. But for many now, there are no more social events, no more work parties, workshops or conferences. No more need to hire out caterers. I didn’t know it, but last Friday’s event was one of the last events I’d do before the “social distancing” advice came into effect. Within a few hours, many of my future bookings cancelled, opening up massive ugly chasms in my schedule. I felt like its taken a few days to process what’s just happened. 

The Impact of a Pandemic on the Catering Industry

Like the restaurant, club, pub and theatre industries, caterers are now left with a significantly reduced market. Our whole business is built around people coming together and enjoying food. The corporate arm of our business relies on companies being physically present; online conference calls don’t require outside catering companies! We have heard a lot about the impact social distancing will have on the hospitality industry as a whole, but few news reporters have included catering companies in their commentary on the affect of this new policy. 

But, no matter what we face as a nation in the short and medium term, life will eventually return to normal. And as small business owners, we need to be ready for when this happens. In my next blog post I am going to write about this. I am going to write about how we keep going, how we get through and how we think of the future. One day I fancy I might like a luxury apartment in the Solihull suburbs, and sitting around sulking isn’t going to achieve that.

So, now the shock of the instruction to self-impose “social distancing” has passed, it is time to turn our minds to making the most of every opportunity; doing what we can, when we can. Take care of yourselves and let’s all get very creative in the weeks and months ahead.