Catering in the Time of COVID

As with all of us, 2020 has been a year of growing pains and adjustments for All Occasions Catering. We sat down with Mark, owner at AOC, to talk about how the team has adjusted to this year’s conditions, and what we can expect moving forward. 

What a time to run a catering business! Tell me about what you’re doing differently. 

Tell me about it! We have definitely made some modifications, for instance offering ‘no contact’ or ‘less contact’ options. We’ve also been emphasizing more plated meals instead of buffets or food stations, for those inclined toward keeping guests a healthy distance apart. What we have learned is we can still serve our clients well with just a little flexibility and creativity.

How did your team respond to the changes you put in place?

They were fantastic and embraced things, even helped come up with solutions. They helped create new menu options, how are we going to present and deliver, set up. By empowering them to buy into the health of the company, it brought us closer together. We have all been part of the solution and it has made us so much stronger as a unit. 

With everything going on, it’s natural to have mixed opinions among the staff regarding the situation we are all in. But we all understand we have to do our best to move forward and keep things going.

How has the New Normal caused your business model to shift?

Fortunately it enhanced what we were doing already. Like every industry at the start of the pandemic, we were figuring it out day by day. It has been a lot of work to get comfortable with everything, but it also forced us to think outside of the box in ways that ultimately benefits everyone. 

A good example is how we started offering no-contact corporate lunches. We can now offer more options to our clients that we always wanted to try before, but never had time to sit down and implement them. We’re also doing a lot of plated meal tastings, which is something we’ve always intended to do. 

What would you consider an upside to how things have changed?

The cream really rises to the top in crisis situations, and this era has certainly proved that. It has kept us thinking about how we can become better. As a result we’re a stronger, more efficient, better company. 

When running a team you see how this shift really brings out one’s true colors, good and bad, and who can embrace the good and change the bad.

What has been a difficulty of how things have changed?

Understandably, the uncertainty of the future affects how guests perceive their events. That is very tough on a business like ours, which relies so much on firm schedules and guest counts. Some clients are drastically changing their events, others aren’t comfortable hosting one yet. We get how hard it is to plan something when we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Client relationships have always been a strength of ours, but this era has really challenged us to work even harder in that department. 

Your business is doing well through the pandemic. Why do you think this is?

This is true in our personal lives as well as catering, but you can’t thrive without a willingness to accept the situation and adapt. Our staff has been so great at this. Our people, team members and clients, stuck with us while we figured out steps forward, and we came out stronger. A silver lining to all the headaches is we are better than we were before. 

How has the New Normal impacted your staff?

Immensely. Scheduling changes so often, many times at the last minute as events are altered. So our staffing has been challenged, but in a good way. I have been so impressed with their agility and positivity, I couldn’t ask for a better response.

What do you expect the coming months to look like for All Occasions Catering?

We have accepted this might not be a short term phenomenon, and the New Normal could be here to stay. But we don’t need to reinvent catering to get through this, we just need to maintain options for effective social distancing, without sacrificing the quality of the guests’ experience. 

We were a good company before, but now we’re great. By embracing the social changes around us, we’re doing things better, evolving, growing. Communities have a way of doing that, and we are firmly rooted in this one. We are here to stay and excited for where we are headed.