Business as (Un)usual

The COVID-19 Pandemic hasn’t been easy for any of us. I am acutely aware of this, and also that there are others who are fighting even bigger battles than the ones I face. However, the past few weeks haven’t been easy, and I hope you will forgive me taking a moment to share my experience with you…

Firstly, I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting the day to come when professional caterers would be excluded from the hospitality industry – an industry that I have spent the best part of 35 years in, but there you go… caterers are apparently not in hospitality! I know this because we applied for the government Small Business, Hospitality & Leisure Grant and were politely declined because our premises are not open to the public.  Ever since the decision was taken I have been fighting – speaking to Southwark, speaking to local MPs, joining other professional catering and marquee companies who are in the same position to try to raise our case and be heard, but so far to no avail.

Then the next blow… we have business interruption insurance which covers us for “An outbreak of human infectious disease and the premises being closed by a notable authority” but apparently they don’t feel able to cover our claim in relation to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Can anyone explain this? I am fighting this too at the moment.

Staff?  Well of course I have had to furlough the vast majority of my team, and I am thankful of the opportunity to do that, and for now on 80% wages, but there is talk of the government reducing their contribution, and businesses having to top wages up to 80%, realistically we know we are likely to be one of the last industries to be able to return to anything even vaguely like ‘normal’, and have no income at the moment so this too is a huge blow.

Our clients pay us a non refundable deposit when they book their event with us, sometimes a year or more in advance, and this is used to secure prices at the time of booking and to cover a lot of work that we do behind the scenes. Planning a large event, and in fact even smaller events, takes hours and hours – far more than most people realise.  But recently there has been much talk of ‘frustrated’ contracts and refunds on deposits throughout the media. In circumstances where no work has been carried out I totally understand that this may apply, but that is not the case for us, and people like Martin Lewis (who I usually have great respect for) and others are often not making it clear that there is a difference in regards to this, when work has been carried out / the funds have been used to cover costs incurred.

Events are still being cancelled as government guidelines are changing weekly and there is so much uncertainty around travel, quarantine and the risk of a second or third spike. Many of our clients fear that they will be unable to proceed with their weddings as vital guests will be unable to attend. That coupled with updates and changes to social distancing rules and the lack of guidelines around indoor events makes it practically impossible for corporate or private clients to book an event in the months ahead. If clarity were offered, it would help us offer solutions to reboot the industry, even if at a distance.

So, there we are! 2020 is not proving to be a good year for me.  In fact, I have never felt so alone and overwhelmed.  I had no choice but to put my team on furlough initially, but that left me juggling all of the above, alongside talking to all our clients who are caught up in this, and understandably anxious about dates / what to do next / how to plan.  I am a trained chef by profession and I will be the first to put up my hand and admit that battling with bureaucracy is really not my area of expertise. Now with new plans in place I hope to be able to slowly bring more of the team back, even if only part time.

You may not know my story……. I set the business up over 20 years ago by saving £10 a week for a year and selling my car!  I worked out of my own kitchen at home for a good while, then slowly built the business one hard step at a time.  A bit of an Alan Sugar story really I suppose, though on a smaller scale!  I have worked bloody hard and all I earned I reinvested. No debt, no problems and a bloody amazing team that have grown with me. But now, no work, no grant, no insurance payout. So, if there are any angel investors out there who might like to offer some support then I would definitely be open to a conversation!

So, my micro business grew into a small business and my small business grew into a medium business. I have fought a lot of battles to get this business to where we are now and I will continue to fight.  It may mean we are smaller than we used to be, with bigger debts, but with grit, determination and the knowledge that my brilliant business is waiting in the wings, we will return stronger than ever. There ain’t no corona virus gonna win this war!

I am a born and bred South Londoner, and it isn’t in my blood to give up without a fight!

Life isn’t perfect right now, but that doesn’t mean it is always going to be that way. I am resilient and I am a fighter – I was born with a head of bright red hair for goodness sake and yes, I am proud to be feisty too!

So, amidst all the doom and gloom, what have we done? Well I have returned to the kitchen and have adjusted the menus which now cover a new way of working, taking on board social distancing and individual packaging. We have always worked under the most strict food hygiene guidelines, with a 5 Star Rating from Southwark every time we have been visited by their Health Inspectors, and now have a COVID-19 statement too.

We have really missed looking after our clients, their families and friends and would love to continue to do so. We are, and always have been very lucky to have clients who appreciate the value in what we offer. Not only the seasonal, organic, sustainable food, but also the quality of service.

We will be here to serve you and we can’t wait! It will be a new normal and it will be strange at first but it is something that we must all get used to. We will adapt and make all necessary adjustments to serve you in the new normal post COVID apocalypse!

Please consider supporting us by ordering from our new website homepage.  Orders can be collected at the arranged times, or we can deliver for a small additional fee. Your orders will help save jobs and allow us to enter 2021 with as little debt as possible. It has been a struggle to accept the idea of debt in the business, but I am there now and it is just something that I must accept in order to go forward.

For now, we are only offering the menus on dates as outlined whilst we make necessary adjustments to the business. If there is a particular occasion that you would like catered then please feel free to email me and I will do my utmost to facilitate your enquiry.

Please take a look at the menus and please order when you can. Your business is more important to us now than ever before.

Thank you so much for reading and see you soon.