Catering companies join restaurants in providing home delivery
Business was booming for Darren Taylor's Harvest catering company at the beginning of March. The award-winning chef had contracts to supply food to events such as Sydney Writers' Festival plus myriad corporate and private functions.
When restrictions to non-essential gatherings were implemented to contain the spread of coronavirus, however, Taylor estimates he lost upwards of $700,000 in revenue due to event cancellations.
The Pop-Up Picnic by One Hundred Hospitality has become popular with people isolating at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Like everyone else in the catering industry, we've taken a huge hit," he says. "The corporate market has disappeared because everyone is working from home, plus obviously all the weddings have stopped."
According to market research company IBISWorld, there were 4000 catering businesses in Australia in 2019 with an industry revenue of almost $8 billion. (Restaurant industry revenue was $19 billion.) Like restaurants, many catering companies are now focusing on home delivered meals in an effort to keep operating during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We lost $450,000 of business due to cancellations related to COVID-19" says Anthony Whitehouse, managing director of Create Catering which has exclusive event contracts with the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Australian Museum.
"As a result, we're launching a restaurant-style service featuring a three-course meal delivered to your door for $95. I believe there will still be customers who want a high-end food experience even when they're isolating at home."
Create Catering's three-course meal options include braised beef cheeks with white polenta, and cherry-smoked duck breast with heirloom beetroots. Wine from Murrumbateman's Shaw Estate is available on request.
Meanwhile, Annandale-based catering and events company One Hundred Hospitality reported a 25 per cent surge in sales of its "Pop Up Picnic" hampers over the past week. Delivered in a bespoke box which folds into a picnic table, the antipasto-filled hampers have long been popular at corporate outdoor events and now individuals are buying the packs for home use.
"People who may not be able to leave the house are ordering the hampers for backyard picnics with the kids, or maybe date night on the balcony," says One Hundred Hospitality's NSW manager Ryan Fox. "A 25 per cent increase in uptake might not sound like a lot, but it's highly significant given business was down by 95 per cent last week."
Kate White is the creative director and founder of Katering, a Surry Hills-based company specialising in events for more than 25 years. She added a home delivery component to the business in 2017. "When gatherings where capped two weeks ago, I lost my whole event catering business in one day," says White. "Two days later, however, orders for my home delivery service had doubled."
White says many caterers are moving into home-cooked meal delivery as a way to nurture people during the pandemic. "I think many Australians are absolutely terrified at the moment. Although people have more time at home to cook, they also want the ease of something they can simply take out of the fridge, reheat and feel comforted by."
Taylor agrees that comfort food is king in the current climate. "The good news for us is that three years ago we began developing a packaged meal business," he says. "Now we can barely meet demand for our soups, pastas and meatballs."
Harvest's ready-made meals can be purchased at select food stores or ordered online for home delivery. "We were planning to launch the packaged line next month, so this is extraordinary timing," says Taylor. "We've been very, very lucky."
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