The COVID-19 pandemic, the economic fallout, the chaotic U.S. presidential elections—you don’t need us to tell you that 2020 was not the best of times for most of those who, up until March, had been cooking on all burners. But catering professionals are nothing if not forward-looking, quick-learning survivors who, as Bill Hansen, CEO of Bill Hansen Catering & Event Production says, are finding ways to make lemon cake out of the lemons 2020 has tossed their way.
Tired of all the gloom and doom of 2020? So are we! Here are 22 ways your peers have learned from the hardships of this year and plan to make next year their best one yet. Hansen, our Catering Ambassador for Catersource’s July 2021 annual conference and tradeshow in Miami Beach, is just one of the 22 top industry thought leaders sharing their perspectives about what they have learned through these extraordinarily trying times, and what they are looking forward to as we round the corner into what hopefully will be a much better 2021.
Every other week we will be brining you just a few of the ways our industry peers have coped, and the ideas, trends, and positive perspectives they have for the future. Check back on January 14th for part 2.
Reuben Bell, President, Blue Elephant Events and Catering, Editor, Real Maine Weddings
Fausto Pifferrer, Co-Founder and Vice President, Blue Elephant Events and Catering
We started a campaign called #postponedontcancel this summer to encourage our wedding and special event clients to postpone their 2020 events and also to buoy the spirits of our colleagues in the Maine wedding industry. It has been shared across the U.S. and internationally, and we feel that it really has made a positive impact on the industry. In lieu of a large gathering, we held a photo/interview session in which over 30 Maine wedding industry business owners were photographed by Focus Photography; SP Films created a video, too.
Now we have started a conversation about the need to hire a professional lobbyist to represent the needs of the Maine wedding industry, something we’ve raised enough support to accomplish.
As we look to 2021 and work to keep inspiration and motivation high, we’ve found through a daily practice of “what’s good” that there are many areas to find hope and excitement in the coming year. While not all of us may not feel entirely secure in our outlook, no good comes from dwelling in uncertainty.
The pure reliance on creative and divergent thinking has been a resounding win for all and will continue as we push into 2021. The absolute need for innovation within our services and the scope of their possibilities has insisted our industry get outside the box to survive. This type of thinking and creative work will continue to flourish in the coming year. Our eyes-wide-open approach to how we can better serve our clients right where they are in their lives has provided opportunities many of us would not have reached for otherwise.
Our team has found success in highly styled cooking and cocktail kits. These weekly, monthly, and quarterly subscription culinary and cocktail kits have proven to be a tremendously successful way to continue to serve our clients outside of their normal special event needs. With the launch of this product line, we’ve found new ways to serve our current and past clients. The rise in subscription boxes moving into the food and beverage industry will continue to find success. While caterers may find this outside their normal service scope, it does provide a great opportunity to continue to serve your clients in a more granular way. Our industry is filled with creative, design-focused minds which have found a home in curating these stylized kits. The combination of these skillsets and the talent in the chefs and mixologists has really proved powerful in the development and deployment of these subscription kits.
Julia A. Kendrick Conway, CEO, Assaggiare Mendocino, Inc., Director for Government Affairs and Legislation, California Association for Private Events
I have spent the 2020 season working with CAPE, California Association for Private Events, to convince the State of California to allow us to reopen weddings and events safely based on restaurant and other guidelines already in place. We did a “Walk for Weddings” at the State Capitol on October 13, which went viral in the media, and finally got the attention of the appropriate people in the Governor’s office so we are moving forward at last.
CAPE (www.capecalifornia.org) is a diverse team of planners, caterers, and other service providers representing some of the state’s top destination wedding markets. Advocacy has been a full-time job since late April, when it became clear that COVID was going to last more than a month or so. I started at the local level, and thanks to networking with contacts built over years of Catersource attendance, I connected with this amazing group. 2021 bookings are strong, so it looks like a promising year ahead.
Brittny Drye, Editor-in-Chief, Love Inc. Magazine
Depending on how this election will go and given the recent Supreme Court Justice confirmation of Trump-appointed conservative Amy Coney Barrett, I predict we’ll see an increase in LGBTQ+ elopements due to the threat that marriage equality will be overturned and the strong chance that, once again, they will no longer have the right to marry.
I predict we’ll see a lot of shifts that were made due to COVID stick around long past pandemic times.
- Outdoor weddings have always been a popular option, particularly for the ceremony, but I feel we’ll see a rise in tented receptions, and not necessarily as a Plan B.
- Individualized cocktail hour apps, drinks, and desserts: Grazing tables had their moment, but they’re certainly not COVID-friendly. Instead, caterers took those same concepts and put them in individually packaged delights: mini jars of dips, individual charcuterie plates, canned cocktails, and single-serve mini cakes. The micro wedding trend that was boosted to follow COVID guidelines has allowed for more focus, and budget, to go to the individual guest experience.
- Out-of-the-box entertainment: You did not want to see dance floors packed at 2020 weddings, and this is likely to extend into 2021. Keep guests entertained with other forms of performance entertainment, such as fire dancers, magicians, and drag queens.
- Upgraded lounge areas: Due to wanting to offer proper social distancing, styled lounge areas will become even more popular, often having more than one area dedicated to safe sitting.
- Virtual guest care packages with Zoom: Even if you are unable to have as large of a guest list as you had hoped, you can still involve loved ones from afar. I love the idea of sending a care package to virtual guests that include gifts like mini cakes and champagne, so that they are able to toast the new couple via Zoom.
Lon Lane, Founder, Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions; Chairman, International Caterers Association Educational Foundation
As we approach the upcoming holidays, limited family gatherings will be common. Unless something really changes, restaurants will be packed due to limited accessibility, creating the need for new products to meet our client’s needs.
Virtual holiday dinners could be dreadful, long, and boring. Virtual cocktail hours have been done, so instead, consider offering ways they can start the day together. Create products that can be shipped to family members for a holiday brunch that would not require a lot of time commitment from the virtual brunch members but will bring families together for the start of the day.
Start developing romantic dinner packages for two for Valentine’s Day with food, beverage, napkins, candles etc.
There are lots of opportunities to get creative, meet the needs of your clients and your marketplace, and save the day!