During the pandemic, many event caterers have diversified into delivery and takeaway operations to keep their business afloat as events were cancelled or dramatically downsized.
Now that restrictions are easing and events are back on the calendar, how will the event catering sector evolve?
Matt Doe from SO41 Catering, operates a mobile food truck and “Fizz Tin” – a mobile horse box bar – providing catering services for events. As a result of Covid-19, he introduced a street food takeaway, run from a production unit and delivered to houses in the New Forest. He says “Last year at the few events we catered for, instead of buffets, we boxed up food, so every person received a box. As restrictions lift, it will revert to people queuing at the buffet but numbers will be limited to enable social distancing as required.”
SO41 held some supper clubs last summer for up to 30 people, adhering to government guidelines, serving canapés and
a three course meal. “The only change we made was to serve people a plate of canapés at the table and where people used to come up to our truck and order food, we did table service, took the order and then delivered it.”
Matt thinks the events business will be buoyant during the next few years as the backlog of weddings and events start to clear. “My advice is to see a problem as an opportunity – going forward we will combine both our income streams; the in-person events business as well as takeaway and delivery.”
At The Churchill (Hyatt Regency London) hotel in London’s Portman Square, there are 12 flexible event spaces including the Chartwell Ballroom. All event catering stopped when the hotel closed except for permitted reasons for travel as per government regulations. Roger Olsson, Executive Chef, says “Since reopening fully we’ve started hosting smaller scale events in
our renovated event space The Library. Corporate event bookings remain last minute and ad hoc for the short term. We’ve seen a most notable upturn in demand for weddings.”
During Covid-19 the hotel made some short-term adjustments to meet changing regulations, replacing standing drinks receptions with table service. “While we can’t have buffets, we offer set menus instead. The impact is more on the delivery rather than on the food itself. I believe these changes will last only as long as the necessary regulations require. Whenever possible guests will choose to return to the pre-pandemic event catering experience,” says Roger. His advice is to adapt what you’re doing based on a thorough understanding of guests’ needs. “Listening and providing a bespoke offering will ensure expectations are met.”
Roger has a positive outlook for event catering. “We’ve learnt that change is constant and to expect the unexpected. People are social and there is pent up demand for events of all occasions so I believe weddings and social events will recover. On the corporate side, businesses are keen to re-establish a sense of normality for colleagues.”
Dinesh Patel from By Dinesh a bespoke patisserie company providing desserts and cakes for events, thinks the main evolution has been to scale back operations from large covers to more intimate affairs usually in people’s homes. “Engaging with our audience, even when at home through delivery, postal boxes or meal kits, has shown how quickly the catering world has had to adapt. Certainly, for us, it will be something we will continue. Sit down meals or individually served portions have taken over, which leaves scope to be creative with presentation, technique and the use of ingredients.”