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Adversity; the Intersection of Innovation

I've always been described as a glass-half-full kind of person who continuously looks on the bright side of life. Perhaps to a fault, but I do believe that adversity is the intersection of innovation and growth. And, like most people, over the past 15 months, I've watched the news like a hawk; watching the creation and execution of pop-up hospitals and a rollout of vaccines in groundbreaking time. Amid all the fear and craziness, companies’, communities’, and individuals' power to think bigger and innovate shone bright. COVID-19 has been a real-time illustration that shows what can be achieved when common, clearly articulated needs unite people. Because, beneath the drawbacks and pitfalls and complexities of all that went wrong, we rediscovered so much. 

A playful take on the cigarette girl, we designed a demi-lune shaped, wearable tray, out of corrugated polypropylene. the waves of the material not only house tasty cigar shaped morsels, but also add visual movement, reminiscent of a ballerina's tutu. + what screams "great party" more than dancing?! Photo courtesy Pinch Food Design.

Last year, when the pandemic hit, like a house of cards, the hospitality industry took a devastating turn all over the country. Waiters that had become friends went home to their families, the restaurants closed their doors, and peers in the industry battened down the hatches to wait for the ‘storm’ to pass. And lately as we slowly start to revive, I sat down with TJ Girard, Founder & Creative Director of Pinch Food Design, to talk about lessons we’ve Pinch has learned over that time. Let us call them our top three light bulb moments.

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We all have a desire to make our work meaningful, especially in the most disastrous of times.   

When we started Pinch, we wanted to change the way people thought of catering. It wasn't just food & beverage, but a way for our clients to create meaningful moments and weave their events' messaging in every guest touch. Our goal was to use innovation and humor to bring smiles to attendees and help our clients get raises! 

When our industry came to a crashing halt, we had to rethink our approach. We needed to create a product that solved the inability to gather and connect people and companies through food, beverage, and design. Parcel was born. Not willing to sacrifice integrity, and after spending a year getting Pinch fully certified as a zero-wastecaterer, we refused to send clients disposable containers. By finding thoughtful and practical vessels that could have a second life or at the very least get composted, we have brought meaning to our work once again.  

Life is short–ignore the naysayers  

At Pinch, we push ourselves to offer what our clients cannot imagine–otherwise, we are just like everyone else. Our passion for innovation at its core is the willingness to take risks and turn things upside down–or in our case, serve food-filled mason jars in a sous-vide stick heated swimming pool. Unfortunately, striving to be original can sometimes expose us to naysayers. The death of innovation is listening to all the reasons why you can't do something or, in our case, build or cook something. 

You don't want a teammate that deters you from pursuing your idea with discouragement and obstacles, but one that is determined to help make it better with critical feedback and "sprinkles." Your dream is a vehicle, and you're the driver. Don't let the passengers map the road for you. 

TRES LECHES UNDER GLASS. Seasonal fruit | popcorn | habanero sauce | meringue. Photo courtesy Pinch Food Design

True entrepreneurs relentlessly stay true to their dream and ready to ignore those not on board. 

I think these predictions illustrate my point perfectly:

"iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks." — Matthew Lynn, Bloomberg.

"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially, it is an impossibility." – Lee DeForest, Inventor. 

Embrace uncertainty  

You really can't predict what a disaster will bring, but by choosing to embrace uncertainty, we find ways to take small steps forward every day. COVID-19 has brought up myriad emotions and endless tasks. We've made tough decisions and are constantly considering worst-case scenarios, all while staying positive that our actions will ensure the survival of our business. 

This elegant piece of furniture, made of a mix of light wood + powder coated metal, displays your menu on revolving vertical panels, set with small bites + rotated as needed for replenishment by a chef. Back of panels can be branded.  Photo courtesy Pinch Food Design.

After the all-encompassing fear faded away, we took the opportunity to improve our systems, learn more about our craft, dive deep into team building, and growing our commitment to sustainability. The pandemic did take control of our day-to-day lives. However, our reaction and what we do with our time and mind are still in our possession. As a result, I am sure that the way we look at our business and industry will forever be changed. And in many ways, in a positive way. 


Stella Rankin

Founding Partner, Pinch Food Design

Food and entertainment, Stella Rankin knows it intimately.  As one of the Founders of the celebrated Pinch Food Design, a top-tier catering and design company based in NYC, she has had almost 20 years of experience in production and live events focusing on luxury, fashion, and lifestyle.

An expert in the luxury food, beverage, and design industry; she is known in her field as an dynamic self-starter and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to representing Pinch in day-to-day operations, she is a big believer in the power of collaboration, always seeking new relationships or reinforcing the old with like-minded tastemakers, acclaimed designers, and professional party planners.