Creative Catering During the Pandemic and Beyond

October 28, 2021

Catering companies were some of the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic. By some accounts, they even struggled harder than restaurants. Restaurants could pivot their businesses for take-out and delivery, but caterers suffered massive cancellations of weddings, holiday parties, corporate lunches and more.

Many caterers got very creative during the pandemic to offer customers safe, portable and, in many cases, home delivered food items to keep their customers served, businesses running and employees working. Some catering ideas were so popular, owners report they plan to keep them as permanent parts of their businesses. Here are some examples of their creative ideas.

Home deliveries for virtual events

Coworkers, family members and friends had to cancel large in-person gatherings, but many hosted virtual events where attendees logged-in online to participate. Caterers delivered fresh appetizers, beverages and whole meals to the individual households. Everyone could feel like they were experiencing the event together.

Home deliveries for private events

Some caterers developed new lines or increased their current lines to deliver to small private home entertaining events. This business is most popular in higher income neighborhoods and areas containing lots of vacation homes. As larger in-home celebrations can be safely held again, this business should increase even more.

Bake at home meals

Similar to the well-known meal kit delivery companies, caterers are packing items needed to make a full meal in a to-go or delivery box. Customers can enjoy a freshly made, delicious meal and caterers avoid fresh ingredients spoiling while waiting for order to come in.

Grocery Suppliers

Some caterers who had an abundance of fresh produce and packaged food items began acting as a supplier to other food service businesses and individual households. They provided items like fresh produce, canned good, breads and other groceries. These deliveries helped businesses who were having trouble getting inventory from distributors and retail stores. With current supply chain disruptions in many industries, this service may continue for caterers who have a reliable supply source that others do not.

Employee Group Orders

Panera Bread implemented a program to help serve businesses’ employees who have limited options for dining. Panera took individual employees’ orders, paid for by each employee, and delivered the whole order at a set day and time. This helped employees where company cafeterias were closed, employees had no time to leave the building or where there were limited restaurant options in their area.

Flexible Workforce Deliveries

Caterers stepped up to serve the expanded remote workforce. Examples are given of caterers delivering personalized meals to wherever people are working. Another example of direct deliveries is caterers who market to businesses that are willing to purchase lunches or dinners for their overworked employees. Caterers are offering to deliver to remote employees’ homes or to their offices when they don’t have any accessible meal options or the ability to leave the office. The large quantity of orders could make up for the higher delivery costs.

Repurposing physical business space

A catering company in northern California opened up part of their working space as a restaurant. They limited their seating for safety protocols. Another caterer transformed the alley behind their business into an outdoor dining space and held themed dinners during the week.

Gift baskets

Themed gift baskets are another way caterers are serving customers in these times of limited social events. With the food and packaging items caterers have at hand or can easily source, they can fill orders for special baskets to brighten someone’s day. Baskets are made for delivery or pick up.

If you are looking for creative ways to add to or change your catering business, hopefully this list helped! And if you are looking to add catering items to your line, be sure to check out our selection of transport barns, boxes and trays, as well as drink carriers. Our wide range of easy to assemble products could make order fulfilling easier for you and your staff. Our items are also made from corrugated cardboard, which makes clean up easy and is a very environmentally friendly option.