Catering Companies During Pandemic: SB Value
While this year continues to be an unprecedented challenge for the event industry, we gain strength and wisdom from staying connected with our community.
We checked in with the team at SB Value to see how the catering business has been over the last several months of the pandemic.
Below is a glimpse of our conversation with Trip Wheeler, President of SB Value.
How has your business been over the last few months since the Allseated Connecting Our Community webinar session in the spring?
It’s been odd, to say the least. At 52 and having seen a few, I thought I would recognize a downturn and understand what the recovery would look like, but I was wrong. Virtually everything I thought would happen has not come to pass. It’s been worse than I expected and yet, better than I expected. In terms of the worst, it’s really just the unknown. When will it end? When will business return? When it does return, what will it look like? What do we do in the meantime?
Our clients seem to be doing well based on the circumstances. Some businesses are as strong as they were before March, but other businesses are still 100% closed. Most of that is dependent on the types of business the client was servicing. For example, pick-up catering is doing pretty well, as are small to medium gatherings. Large to massive gatherings are non-existent, as is corporate catering as, for the most part, companies have not brought their workers back into the office.
So, as you can imagine, we’re off dramatically from last year, but we are steady. Like everyone else, we’ve had to make some really hard cuts, but we have retained our core team so that we are ready once things start to improve. But not being able to plan or work towards a solution is very hard. I am not a patient person, but we have no choice but to hurry up and wait.
What have you noticed from your clients overall as we continue to navigate the pandemic?
A very mixed bag. Those who were overly optimistic still are. They have plans for the upturn, they’re ready, and they don’t let the negativity bring them down. Those, like me, who tend to hope for the best but keep a very close eye on the worst possibilities have to take a lot of deep breaths every day just to stay sane. Some days, clients in this group are resigning to the facts, have shortened up their budgets, and are waiting out the storm. Then the next week, they are freaking out because they are unsure what 2021 will look like…and if their cash will last.
So in talking to clients, it’s a lot of talk about being rational. Yes, things are tough, there’s no question about it. However, worrying does not help me or our partners one bit. So I spend a lot of time talking to people about keeping a level head and finding something they can do now that will bring them joy or satisfaction. And I am getting more good advice from my clients than I am giving. So, it’s a very good release for me and keeps me focused on the facts.
How do you see the fall and winter season shaping up for the industry?
I see much of the same for the most part. For some, it will be a good fall depending on the class of service they provide. Likewise, it will not improve much for those servicing large events and corporate, and they are unable to establish an alternative business plan. For me, all eyes are on 2021. For the caterers who I speak with virtually, all would love to wake up tomorrow and have it be January 2021 and get a big eraser to wipe 2020 from their conscience.
What positives have you possibly noticed over the last few months in business / the industry?
I broke my collarbone when I was in my early twenties. The break made bone unstable and weaker. But after six months, it had healed and is now twice its original size. You could hit it with a hammer and not make a dent. My point is that experiences that are hard oftentimes can make you stronger if you approach the issue the right way. Now, I’m not saying I’ve handled this crisis exceptionally well, but my mindset has been to look for ways to make myself better during this time, and I am. Of course, my partner is Clint Elkins, and he has done the same – he has become a better person over the last six months as well. He has improved his overall well-being. He just told me that he is much more present than he used to be and much more deliberate about the decisions he makes. He no longer follows the same path every day – he now decides what path he wants to take. And with that, he is closer to his girls, he’s more centered, and appreciates the small things in life that he used to miss. If I’m being honest, this is a way better place to improve than simply improving with your work style.