How has COVID-19 affected you and your business in a positive way?
Many of our clients were quick to implement “work from home” initiatives as Covid-19 arrived in Ireland. Consequently, we were forced to react quickly. We spoke to and worked with each of our clients to see how we could move forward and thankfully all of them have been extremely supportive. The fact that we own our Central Production Facility allowed us to deliver the necessary changes as we moved to individual meals and snacks, delivered into our client sites, until all sites finally closed.
The speed of the shut-down and the effect it had on many people in our society turned our focus to the charities who might need assistance. We already had an established in-house Charity Committee, with Crumlin Children’s hospital being our chosen charity partner. Therefore, it was natural to start by supporting the Ronald McDonald House as they were forced to close their kitchen. We began making meals for them and several other charities. The more phone calls we made the more we realised that most charities had been forced to close their own in-house kitchens as Covid-19 spread.
Initially we funded this ourselves. On explaining to clients, the scale of the problem that was emerging they agreed to contribute, donating all the snacks that were left in their offices plus additional funds. Amazingly the aircraft leasing company Avolon allocated their full catering budget to our charity programme. When the lockdown was announced, we declared ourselves an “Essential Service” and have stayed open to this day.
I am delighted to say, we have donated over 30,000 meals to charities so far. These have included charities such as inner city homeless, the Ronald Mc Donald House, St Michael’s House, Barnardo’s, Holles’ Street Hospital, St James’ Hospital and many small local charities feeding the elderly that were now in their homes cocooning. This charity initiative would not have been possible without the help of both our clients and our amazing team who deserve all the credit for this. This includes the admin staff who manned the phones and liaised with the charities, the chefs, the kitchen staff and the delivery drivers. Everybody came to work each day with a smile.
How have you pivoted your business?
We have also been working hard over the last few weeks to develop our current offering as we “Reverse out of Covid”. We see companies looking for alternative catering solutions for their staff who will return to work.
With this in mind we have developed a new range of chilled meals which include individually packed breakfast, lunch, and dinner solutions, in compostable packaging, all produced in our 25,000 sq ft Central Production Facility. This offering will be delivered by our team of drivers, who have been trained in HSE protocols. This service/offering is not just for clients whose on-site restaurant has closed, but for clients who do not ordinarily provide food to employees, but do not want their employees queuing at the local shop or deli for their lunch.
Our Pantry Service/Vending business continues to list nearly 1,000 pre-packed items, including our in-house produced energy balls, juices, fruit pots etc - an ideal solution!
We also launched our new sister company, www.eatto.ie. This business, which had been in development for some time, produces handmade meals using the best Irish ingredients. These meals are blast-frozen and delivered nationwide, directly to the consumer. Due to the high demand for this new initiative, we are working to extend the range of products available in the Eatto.ie catalogue for launch in July.
We produce everything in-house from the best Irish ingredients, guaranteeing an exceptionally high-quality product. We are proud members of Bord Bia’s Origin Green initiative and members of the Love Irish Food Association.
What if any of the COVID-19 changes do you see being made into long-term changes, and how do you believe it will help your business post the crisis?
Covid has changed everything about hospitality particularly the world of catering. This includes everything about food presentation in the short to medium term. Clients are looking to “take back” space from catering companies, space that is now required for larger working and breakout areas because of social distancing. This is forcing operators into producing more and more food offsite. Industry talk is about Cloud Kitchens and Central Production Kitchens. We are fortunate to have our own Central Production Facility for over 12 years leaving us well positioned for this shift in how the catering world is serviced.
What is your view on the market post COVID-19?
There is no doubt, working from home will reduce customers in our client’s restaurants. While I do believe that this will continue because of Covid, l see companies slowly re-opening over the next few months and staff returning to offices on a gradual basis. While working from home has its advantages it is not for everyone or a perfect solution, particularly on a full-time basis. Consequently, we see our clients retuning to near pre-Covid levels in the medium term. We are fortunate to have a great team and facility in place that allows us to remain flexible and innovative for our clients while delivering a best-in-class solution.
You can catch Barry, Artizan Food Co. and Eatto on the following social media platforms: