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Lessons From Corporate Catering In Changing Times

Jonathan Altshuler

Jonathan Altshuler

April 15, 2020

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With the constant stream of news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to get distracted and discouraged by the negative tone and outlook of daily press briefings and 24-hour network news coverage. And rightly so, I know a lot of businesses, including ours, have new considerations on their plate, from government stimulus packages to business continuity plans. At Cater2.me, where we’ve built a culture around shared meals, anniversary celebrations, and birthday balloons, today we struggle with how to maintain a sense of community while we’re forced to work from separate locations.

In many ways, the impact resonates close to home, as the events of the last few weeks have highlighted the fragility of our community, and particularly of those family-run restaurants and caterers who have worked with us to build their businesses by feeding our clients’ hungry employees. Over the years, Cater2.me has helped thousands of these small businesses grow by giving them exposure and powering them with data and expertise. In fact, our founders have put a focus on community development since they started the company, seeking out amazing but unknown food businesses to showcase as part of our platform. In many instances, these are women-owned businesses or the American dream realized by a first-generation business owner.

But despite these current challenges, I’m also encouraged by the creativity, resolve, and fortitude of our Cater2.me team members, vendor partners, and clients, whom I’ve been privileged to work alongside over these recent weeks. It’s a testament both to their adaptability as well as their genuine care for those in need.

Austin restaurant, Tio Pepe, prepared more than 100 boxed lunches for Cision’s donation to Keep Austin Fed!

During this challenging time, I’ve been inspired to read about the efforts so many of our vendors and clients have made, either in partnership with our team or independently, to help our local communities. Earlier this month, we launched our Vendor Support and Community Assistance Program, through which we’ve partnered with great companies to donate meals to organizations feeding those in need. In Atlanta, we’ve worked with the Calendly team to donate hundreds of meals to Second Helpings, a local food rescue organization. In turn, Second Helpings was able to help its partner, Zaban Paradies Center, provide hundreds of additional meals to the Atlanta-area couples it serves. And in Austin, we worked with the Cision team, who pulled together an employee fundraiser to keep their meal donations going in support of various local vendors as well as food rescue organization, Keep Austin Fed. To make this program even more impactful to vendors, Cater2.me waives its commissions and works with vendors to plan meals that fit the specific delivery and packaging parameters required by recipient organizations.

And it’s not only our clients who are stepping up to support our local communities. Even while their businesses are in peril, our vendor partners across the country have worked tirelessly to lend a hand. In Seattle, Sunrise Tacos has delivered hundreds of breakfast tacos to frontline healthcare staff at local hospitals through their Feed the Frontlines campaign. In San Francisco, our friends at La Mediterranee have been working with the Office of Public Health and emergency management teams to feed hundreds of emergency workers, as well as the medical staffs of Kaiser Permanente and UCSF hospitals. And in New York, our partner JPO Concepts has been working to feed emergency health workers at Mount Sinai Hospital and Northwell Health, as well as police and fire stations in Midtown Manhattan and East Harlem.

I’ve also been inspired by some of the creativity our vendors have shown in remaining a relevant and meaningful part of people’s lives: In New York, Gladys Shahtouh of Sambuxa NYC started an IGTV channel to share the recipes and techniques behind her Sudanese cooking.

Since they launched Cater2.me in 2010, Zach and Alex have always focused our team on finding creative ways to collaborate with our vendor partners to create adaptable programs to fit all types of client needs. This approach has helped us achieve incredible success for our clients, and in many ways, navigating the ever-changing world of corporate catering — along with all of its growing expectations — is the most enjoyable part of the job.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve all had to lean on our ability to create and collaborate as we’ve confronted some of the toughest challenges this business has seen. But from these challenges have come new opportunities to be creative and develop innovative offerings that are relevant to our clients and help support our vendor partners during this critical time.

In responding to these challenges, we’re reminded of how important our position is within this ecosystem as we work to find creative and safe ways to continue bringing our vendors’ delicious food to people who need it. And even in these toughest of times, I’m encouraged and inspired by the work we’ve been able to accomplish together, and by the promise for more great meals in our future.

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“Cater2.me has been able to get our employees from all different departments together, to get away from our desks, recharge, and be able to return to our work, happy and full.”

—Ellen K., Employee Experience Specialist, Frame.io