As many of you know, we at Footers Catering pride ourselves on creating a great place to work. Being intentional about our culture has made us successful and provided incredible opportunities for our company and our team.
Although we love our perks, benefits, and fun, creating a great place to work goes well beyond those things and for us centers around loving what we do and who we do it with. We’ve recognized that part of “loving what you do” is finding ways to challenge our team and create opportunities for growth. When these things happen, people take pride in their jobs, feel a sense of fulfillment, and are genuinely excited about coming back to work the next day.
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In December 2019 we had the opportunity to sell our current facility and purchase a new space that would encompass the next chapter of personal and professional growth for our team. The 40,000 square foot building we found to be our home would take us beyond just off premise catering and into running an event center, having a headquarters for our sister company, Mibe Tribe, and opportunities for future business endeavors. The build-out would take eight to nine months while we leased back our old building. We believed that within a year we would see this dream come to reality.
Two weeks turns into…
Then March 2020 hit. And like many of you, it hit us hard. What we originally thought would be a two to four week pause turned into…well, you know—here we are a year later. In addition to figuring out how to save our business, we also had to decide if we would move forward with our build-out. There were a lot of difficult conversations that took place, but at the end of the day we felt like there were two options. One, that we believed that COVID-19 would fundamentally change events and gatherings forever and in that case, we needed to get out of the catering business. Or two, that our desire as humans to interact in person and gather in large settings would be strong enough to return at some point, and in that case, now was as good of a time as ever to build something for the future. We chose the latter.
The journey has been filled with challenges, and through those challenges we were able to recognize the silver lining. The construction was delayed while we debated what to do, but we were able to provide work for some of our team members on projects like painting offices, landscaping, and light demo. It was not catering events, but it was work.
Our bank changed the terms of the loan for the build-out two weeks before we were supposed to begin the project, stating that it was too much of a risk for them to loan money to a hospitality industry business at that time. I’m always an advocate of having multiple banking relationships and in this situation, it worked in our favor. Our “new” bank saw what we were trying to accomplish and believed in us enough to loan us the money for the project. That relationship is one of the best things to come out of the past 10 months. COVID-19 has been a built-in excuse for sub-contractors not meeting deadlines and although our move logistics and schedule have been changed more times than I can count, we are grateful that we did not have to coordinate it with our typical calendar of events.
We chose the name, Social Capitol, for the building and venue that will have a capacity of 1,200 people for a cocktail party and 500 plus for seated dinners. A capitol building for events, galas, and fundraisers, but also a play on the meaning of “Social Capital” which is a set of shared values that allows individuals to work together in a group to effectively achieve a common purpose. The idea describes how a community is able to band together to live harmoniously and that is in essence what has made Footers Catering successful for so many years.
This project has given our team hope, something to look forward to, and during an extremely trying year, it is exactly what we needed. We know we are fortunate to be in the position to make a move like this during the most challenging time of our professional careers. We also know that we would not be in this position without the many years of hard work and commitment of our team. They are the reason we have been able to weather the storm AND build for the future at the same time. As I write this, we are weeks away from having our certificate of occupancy and officially operating out of Social Capitol. Time will tell if this bet will pay off. Betting on our team, though, is not something we see as a risk, but rather an opportunity to create an environment where we can all thrive.