EASTON – After COVID-19 canceled thousands of events across Maryland and the coast last year, local restaurant businesses are finally seeing business back to normal thanks to easing restrictions in the state .
For businesses that had to adapt to new business models to stay afloat last year, the almost coming back events are a welcome sight for local caterers. Many are eager to get back to their busy pre-pandemic schedule immediately.
Weddings are a big part of Garden and Garnish’s business in Trappe, but the pandemic has caused the majority of their events to be canceled or postponed until 2021 or 2022, said Cathy Schmidt, co-owner of Garden and Garnish with her husband. Brian.
âOur revenues are down maybe 70 percent last year, so it’s pretty crippling,â Schmidt said.
Seeing that many people were afraid to go out to restaurants, the Schmidts turned to offering ready-to-go food delivered to their customers’ homes to drive business forward in April 2020. The couple began creating new menus. themed lunch and dinner biweekly for their meal delivery offers, which received positive reviews from the community.
âLet me tell you, we tried so many different menus that we felt really rejuvenated,â Schmidt said with a laugh. “I mean, you’re trying to make the most of it, right?” … It was almost like a year of experimentation.
The Schmidts are returning to their regular dining schedule now that some coronavirus restrictions are relaxed, but they are still following safety guidelines to protect themselves and their customers. One option they were offering even before the state shutdowns is the fully supported meal depot, which has only grown in popularity since the start of the pandemic.
Schmidt also noticed that people have smaller events to limit exposure.
âThey’re ready to be with their friends, they’re ready to be with their families, they’re ready to start celebrating these important things in their lives,â Schmidt said.
For Humble Hearts Catering and Events in Centerville, co-owners Alicia Boyd and Ashley Harris were still making plans for their business when the pandemic struck in March 2020.
Inspired by their mothers and grandmothers, the company officially started in 2018 as a part-time business, with Boyd serving as director of catering and Harris as director of events. In January 2020, the two women made the decision to quit their full-time jobs and go fully into work at Humble Hearts, just two months before COVID hit.
The pandemic has provided women with “an opportunity to quickly pivot” in meal deliveries to Mid-Shore counties and Annapolis, Alicia said, describing her as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to continue to do foodservice under one. different shape. The two also provided boxed meals for special occasions and vacations.
While they are no longer delivering meals as they return to the normal dining flow, Boyd and Harris are still making sure they have the right COVID precautions in place for their next bookings. Much of their caution is based on the comfort level of the customer, they said.
Now that the restrictions are easing, Boyd and Harris look forward to a bright future and feel “rather blessed” to have stayed afloat during the pandemic.
âWe just hope to continue to grow and be a viable presence in our community,â Boyd said.
For Susan Joy, owner of Blue Heron Catering in Easton, statewide lockdowns have cost her business all of its party activities. Before the pandemic, she typically hosted weddings, cocktails, and fundraising events for 200 to 600 people, in addition to providing personal chef services to several clients.
To keep Blue Heron going, Joy and her staff began serving take out food to locals, focusing on holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, which have worked well, Joy said. His company also served meals to the National Guard during the pandemic, which helped the company even more.
Blue Heron also hosted many micro-weddings during the pandemic, often with just a small COVID-tested wedding gift. A lot of people just wanted the company to drop off food without any staffing, Joy said.
Now that restrictions on gathering sizes are easing across the state, Joy is left with a backlog of weddings as of 2020, in addition to previously scheduled 2021 weddings. She also sent referrals to other caterers because she just isn’t able to do more business on certain days.
With the busy season restarting, Joy also finds staffing an issue, saying some are afraid to return to work while others choose to remain unemployed.
âIn this business, people are one of your greatest assets, and if you have a great staff, you want to keep them, so that was our top priority,â she said.
Although many businesses lost a large chunk of their profits or even closed last year, Payroll Protection Program (P3) loans have provided additional funding to struggling small businesses and their staff across the board. the state. Garden & Garnish, Humble Hearts and Blue Heron have all been able to stay afloat in part thanks to the loans.
âWe entered this pandemic with a solid business and you know we’ve struggled a bit, and I think we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,â Joy said.