Navigating the New Normal
COVID-19 has been particularly devastating to British Columbia’s food businesses. Emelle’s Catering trades on their reputation as one of Vancouver’s finest caterers, providing flexible and delicious options for events of all sizes. Their business was instantly decimated. And, with no way of knowing when large-scale events can proceed again, they needed to develop a plan of action to survive. Their multi-pronged approach involves pivoting to meal delivery, offering grocery boxes, and delivering staff lunches to frontline essential workers.
First, they had to navigate a travel-related hurdle.
“Mary Lee had hopes of travelling a lot more and enjoying her property in Panama. This winter/spring was going to be a big test for the future of Emelle’s. She planned to head off for a few months and have less involvement in the business . (It’s as if she chose a remote location with spotty internet on purpose!) We were going to see how we did without her for a while. Unfortunately, the last few months kinda threw us a curveball!
“Initially, she got stuck in Panama and I had to make the decision to temporarily close the business down. Thankfully, she’s here now, she made it back. Once she was out of quarantine, we sat down and had an honest discussion. We asked each other, ‘are you scared?’ – Yes, but we needed to open, we needed to figure it out.
“We made the decision to open back up and see how we could help. We needed to do something. We wanted to create some positive energy and feeling that something better is going to happen. To us, it’s a better way of handling it than just sitting and waiting.
“Our re-opening team consists of Mary Lee and I, our beloved dishwasher and our kitchen manager. The four of us are wearing every hat possible. We are the delivery people, the packers, the cookers and the phone answerers. We’re doing this to keep the lights on by doing our own sort of pivot strategy during COVID until we can go back to catering events.”
Finding Reasons to Celebrate
For 2020, Emelle’s marketing theme was centered on finding reasons to celebrate. With good news hard to come by so far this year, this campaign seems more relevant than ever – even if it needs to be slightly adjusted.
“Our big marketing push for 2020, and part of the campaign we submitted to win Best Marketer at the SBBC Awards was ‘what are you celebrating this year?’ Reopening, it’s about finding, at least for us, the things you can still celebrate.
“I know everyone is getting bogged down in bad news, most of us are terrified about our health and about our business, what the world’s going to look like etc. but it’s still really important to think of the things we can still celebrate.
“We can still bang our pots and clap to celebrate healthcare workers, we can still celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and we can still be grateful on so many levels. It’s about finding that real core of what we call hospitality for us – it’s kind, caring, giving, warmth – all the stuff we talked about before is still just as relevant, we just need to reframe it to fit in this new application.”