Santa Barbara, Calif. - Caterers have been looking at quiet kitchens and empty plates far longer than they ever expected when the pandemic began last March. COVID-19 has taken a big bite out of the on going and new orders leaving the chefs looking for as much side work as they can get.
At Creative Servicing Catering, owner John Savage says he has been able to create menus that fit the changing rules, for small and large groups.
Currently it's more family style.
"This is what's in our heart. I'm wired to do events and planning and food and it brings so many people together," said Savage. "More of eight to 10 to 12 people, larger portions, more of a customized thing."
While cooking steaks and salmon for a lunch order, Savage said he can adjust his menu to the liking of the group and handle special orders easily, such as someone who is gluten free, or has an allergy to a certain food item.
Timing is important in the catering and delivery business. From his downtown location it's unsually a fast delivery. "You gotta make sure you hit it right because you don't want food to sit, you want it in the temperature zone."
Holiday orders are starting to pick up and caterers say they will work special hours to meet the dates and times, especially because business has been so slow this year. "We're doing a lot of drops offs, a lot of corporate, a lot of families."
In many cases, Savage says catering can help destress a family over the holidays, and "have it all set with our platters, with our stainless steel our silver and our tongs and our gold platters. We'll do all the mess so you can relax and enjoy that time."
He says this is a special time with food and family get togethers taking on a new shape. "Celebrations need to be going right now, we need that more than ever. We need people to come together."
He described the arrival of the food and set ups by saying, "it's so exciting to see that (happiness) and see their faces. We come in, we do it and we go away. They don't have to do anything."
A normal flow pattern would be private parties, big events such as weddings, corporate meetings and sometimes specialty meals for senior living homes.
In the Santa Barbara area, known for its festivals, non-profit fundraisers, destination event locations and wine country experiences, caterers were often called upon to be part of the culinary experience.
Everything is prepared in their sanitized kitchens, however, prior to COVID, some of the dishes could be prepared or finished on site.
There have been numerous changes to the protocols, but the caterers have had high standards when preparing food including proper food temperatures, frequently cleaned surfaces and workers with gloves and chef's attire.
It's still to be determined when they will get back on track with orders at anything close to the pace they had in 2019, but some are seeing activity that may help them regain customers "one bite at a time."
Along with caterers Savage says, his food vendors from local farmers to beverage company benefit from his business.
"It is the DJ's, the food, the flowers, the rental companies. There are so many other elements. We are keeping the local vendors going it really is a chain reaction," he said.