Catering during COVID-19: Companies adapt to small events

"It's a small event, but it's an event."
Catering during COVID-19: Companies adapt to small events
Posted at 11:01 PM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-09 15:22:00-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — For those working in the food industry who are dependent on large gatherings to make a living, this pandemic changed everything about how they do business. News5 was there as a local catering company started to rebound, by prepping for one of their first small events since the public health restrictions went into place.

At Picnic Basket Catering Company, employees came together for the first time on Friday morning to cater an event for 60 people working at a health care company. Those enjoying the food were served in groups of ten, to abide by social distancing guidelines. There were also lots of rules for those working the event, including wearing a mask, wearing gloves, and washing their hands frequently. One of the owners of the catering company said these smaller events will be their new normal for a while. "We're thinking it's probably going to be more like ten people in your backyard, or 15 people in the mountains, instead of 125 people in a hall," said Kathy Dreiling.

News5 also spoke to one of the catering captains for the event, Rob Templin, who said he loves this job because he gets to interact with people. However, Templin said seeing his co-workers was one of the best moments of the day. "Great to see everybody again, and I'm excited to get out there and knock out the dust, so to speak," said Templin.

Those with Picnic Basket Catering Company said typically April to October is their busy season, with lots of events ranging from graduations to weddings. They estimate they have lost around $800,000 in potential revenue through the fall.

Michelle Talarico is another one of the owners of Picnic Basket Catering Company, and she is now also a member of the Colorado Event Alliance. Talarico said the alliance is still in the process of getting their 501(c)(3), but it is a group of people across the state advocating for the needs of people working in the special events industry. So far, Talarico said she is the only member from Southern Colorado. The alliance aims to help gig workers, by allowing them to apply for financial support. It also accepts donations. "We're hoping that if we do this right, if we can set a precedent and show that we can cater responsibly and keep our team and others healthy, maybe we'll get just one step closer to helping the rest of the special events industry open back up," said Talarico.

Meanwhile, Salt of the Earth Catering Company said last year around this time, they were completely booked. "Graduations, weddings, these are once in a lifetime events, and it's very sad to see that people are going to have to cancel or postpone those... We're approximately 90-95% down in our sales this year," said Patrick Reitmayer, who is one of the owners and the executive chef.

Reitmayer said they have had to take out loans to stay afloat. The first few weeks of the Stay at Home order, Salt of the Earth tried out takeout orders, but Reitmayer said it was not cost-effective. He also said some of their clients have let them keep their deposit, to try and help during this trying time. "It's probably going to be a couple to three year process of a recovery on this. So, we just all have to hang on tight," said Reitmayer.

Picnic Basket Catering is also making Mother's Day baskets, and will accept any last minute orders placed on Saturday.