Christmas is in the air and the New Year is fast approaching. Normally, the holiday catering season would be in full swing. From family gatherings to workplace holiday parties and other festive occasions marking the end of the old and the beginning of the new, this season has normally been a boon for foodservice providers and for the catering industry. The advent of COVID-19, however, has put a damper on the festivities and a new spin on what is considered ‘normal.’ From social distancing protocols and limited guest numbers at live events to virtual gatherings where get-togethers take place online only, you may think a caterer’s job is a thing of the past.
There is good news on the menu, however, for professional catering companies, party organizers, and event planners! Due to the coronavirus, the takeout/ordering-in paradigm is now in full bloom. The public is starting to gather again, albeit in small groups, and they are willing to pay top dollar for their favorite catered holiday meals and desserts.
COVID Friendly Catering
Moreover, there are now stockings full of expert tips on how to host COVID friendly celebrations, food safety tips for the holidays, catering a 2020 office holiday party, corona-friendly outdoor catering, and a growing list of virtual holiday party activity ideas that are inviting, fun, and interactive. Turns out “tis the season to be joyful ” after all, and it’s the perfect opportunity to let your customers know that you have their back and that they can count on your eatery to meet their demands.
How Caterers Can Still Make a Profit Despite the Pandemic
Restaurateurs have already broken the traditional mold, transforming almost overnight from brick-and-motor operations into remote ghost kitchens, takeout only services, and other creative solutions aimed at ensuring that their food reaches customers safely during corona. Similarly, catering during corona means coming up with a variety of flexible options designed to meets everyone’s needs. While this may include traditional event catering, it may also mean donning your creative chef’s hats and coming up with innovative incentives and ideas.
Virtual Holiday Catering
Let’s begin with perhaps today’s most sought-after catering paradigm: How to host a virtual party. From industry experts, here are some recommendations for your 2020-2021 catering business:
- Online Tastings: Virtual tastings are one of the most popular ways to host an online office party. Here is how it works: Your catering company sends tasting items (such as assorted wines and cheeses) to all invited guests. At a designated time, one of your experts guides guests through the tastings via video chat. Note that virtual office parties work just as well during daytime hours as they do in the evening, with the added bonus of allowing employees’ children to join from home.
- Online Cooking/Baking Class: Supply party guests with ingredients and instructions for preparing a favorite holiday meal or dessert, such as turkey stuffing, pumpkin pie, or a gingerbread house. Ship out the kits and supplies in advance, and then have one of your professionals lead the online Zoom class. Whether you are catering a family event or an office shindig, the experience is a fun way to bond and even engage in some friendly competition.
- Picnic in Box: From plain-Jane-and-simple to lavish and luxurious, many caterers are being asked to create picnic boxes for guests in lieu of a traditional buffet or dinner. To stand out from the competitive pack, remember that creativity takes the cake and wins the race.
- Virtual Entertainment: If the scope of your catering business includes entertainment, consider lining up some guest musicians to appear during an event. They can be live or provide prerecorded footage from their studio, eliminating the need deal with sound and lighting issues. For adults, comedians may provide some much sought-after laughter and relief during today’s difficult times, while magicians might fit the bill when catering a children’s party. And if your clients are hungry for some bona fide holiday spirit, a virtual visit from Santa may be part of the recipe to success….
In a nutshell, despite corona, you can continue to cater memorable and profitable events this holiday season that will NOT leave guests saying “bah humbug.”
Taking the Party Outdoors
Not only is the outdoors one of the safest places to host an event during corona, but it can also be the ideal setting for creating the holiday spirit. Depending on your location, the leaves are either changing color or there may be a sheet of glistening white snow on the ground. The weather is cooler, making it the perfect venue for some warm apple cider, oven-fresh hors d’oeuvres, and the smell of cinnamon, spice, and everything nice. Moreover, with Mother Nature already taking care of the no-cost decorations, all you must do is come up with a menu that is easy to serve outdoors, set up spaced-out tables, and ask guests to take advantage of the open space to social distance as they wine and dine.
Finally, consider the allure of a hot chocolate bar (complete with marshmallows and toppings) during the cold holiday winter days. Guaranteed to keep your guests feeling warm and cozy – and to keep them coming back for more!
Invest in Outdoor Catering Equipment
Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is well worth your time and money to invest in outdoor restaurant furniture and catering equipment. Recommended items to add to your repertoire include heaters, fans, tents, sun shields, wind shields, portable generators, outdoor lighting, BBQ grills, camp stoves, gas ranges, shatterproof wine glasses, and more.
Creative Event Layouts
Without a doubt, creative event layouts are fundamental to catering during COVID. If you are hosting an event or celebration, think early about seating arrangements. Fortunately, the possibilities are many, ranging from spaced-out round table seating for conversations, to tilted seating arrangements that guarantee no one is directly in front of one another, to seating plans strategized with a particular theme in mind.
Tips for Catering a COVID-19 Safe Event
In the COVID-19 era, all social events must adhere to mandated standard operating procedures (SOPs). These include prioritizing hand washing for catering staff, providing, and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), regular surface disinfecting, limited restroom occupancy, and no-touch sanitizing supplies in restrooms. Many foodservice providers now package condiments for guests individually, while plexiglass barriers are becoming standard fare to separate guests from buffet items. By doing your due diligence and training your staff to act accordingly, you can assure your clients that their safety is your top priority.
Not only should you be transparent with all the precautions you are taking, you should also consider adding playful signs that remind guests of their own safety requirements and expectations, such as wearing masks. Better yet, your catering company can provide branded or themed masks for everyone, making them part of the fun and entertainment.
Bonus Tip for Catering During the Coronavirus
If you are a forward-thinking caterer with the goal of thriving during 2021, consider adding the following to your COVID Menu success list: Appoint an on-site sanitation manager responsible for overseeing all safety aspects related to corona. Their job will ensure that the proper procedures are followed before, during, and after each event.
Stay Safe and Happy Holidays!