Picture this… it’s December 31st, 2019: Here at Food Design, we are celebrating a successful 16th year in business, a whirlwind holiday season, and the limitless potential 2020 has to offer. We’re reeling from an incredible quarter, excited for the future and heading into a new year with full force. Covid-19 is barely a whisper. We, like most of our friends and colleagues in the industry, are blissfully ignorant to the storm ahead and have our sights set on what the world of events has to offer in the coming months… 2020 is going to be our year.
December 2019 was not unlike most holiday seasons that had come before: large scale events with mingling, mask-less guests roaming freely; lush food and beverage displays from caviar to champagne fountains; and rooms packed so completely that making your way from one wall to the other was considered an artform. We had no idea that the world we spent our days planning and our nights executing was about to change for the foreseeable future.
January and February continued to be full of social gatherings big and small. Long-time clients celebrated babies and engagements. Corporate events continued to boom. We proceeded to plan our brides’ upcoming weddings and worked with committee chairs on finalizing plans for a highly anticipated gala season.
The weekend of March 13th we had a full calendar of events… and on March 12th, they had all cancelled. At the time, like many others, we couldn’t have imagined that we would still be fighting this pandemic a full calendar year later. But what we did know was that we wanted to contribute to the solution, that we wanted to stay relevant in the wake of a crisis and, most importantly, that we wanted to continue to meet our clients’ needs in an abrupt new climate.
So we pivoted.
Pivot is a term heard a lot this past year, as small business owners try to accurately convey their experiences with transforming their business model (one they’ve spent a tremendous amount of time working to build) virtually overnight. We got to work launching a project we had been working on in the background for years: Purest Foods. And put together a family-style meal delivery system in which our clients, who, pre-pandemic, could only enjoy renowned Chef, Michael Batt’s, five-star cuisine at their lavish affairs, could now indulge in the comfort of their own homes on a weekday evening. While the events industry was virtually nonexistent, we knew healthcare workers and frontline heroes were struggling and working tirelessly to keep the rest of us healthy and safe. We wanted to give back; and with the help of some of our amazing clients, we were able to feed hundreds of hospital workers and NYC fire-fighters.
While the world started getting used to what the “new normal” was, we, like many industry professionals started getting creative. The rise of virtual events gave birth to “party-in-a-box” ideas: breakfast parties, cocktail parties and dinner parties, all turned into individual boxes dropped safely to guests’ homes while they celebrated together over a zoom call. We focused on the “micro-event” and worked with other industry pros to put together micro-event and wedding packages. These entertaining packages combined catering, rentals, florals, and a venue and took the work out of party planning for the client. This allowed them to focus on what had become so important to them: precious time with friends and loved ones.
Although these events looked different, they spurred so much optimism in us for the future of our industry. Are micro-events here to stay? We think so! While we believe big events are a part of our fast-approaching future, some brides and clients are enjoying the benefits of smaller events. Micro-weddings provide for intimate and personal moments and greater attention to detail in other areas. One bride opted for a seven-course tasting menu for her smaller group of guests, providing an experience she wouldn’t have otherwise offered her party of 200. Abundant florals and romantic lighting are just a few of the other ways in which brides and hosts of small gatherings are maximizing the benefits of scaling down their guest count.
The creativity was only just beginning with the ideas of “party-in-a-box” and micro-events. Limiting the number of people at a celebration or gathering via zoom is not going to cut it as we move further into 2021 and closer to a semblance of normalcy. As industry professionals, we put the safety and comfort of our clients and guests at the top of our priority list, which means adapting to meet each event’s specific needs. For some – this means the individualized EVERYTHING. Individual hors d’oeuvres plates, individual meals, individual desserts – you name it. We found that having small plates of room-temp hors d’oeuvres: each guests’ own beautiful display of bite-sized edible elegance, at individual place settings when guests arrive will get them right to their seats. Cover them with delicate cloches to keep food safe from the elements and provide a polished touch.
We also had to consider that bars and the overcrowding that usually goes along with them were a thing of the past – at least for a while. We found that multiple bars spaced around a room will avoid congestion. Add in some “roaming” bartenders refilling drinks so your guests don’t have to get up from their seats and you’re promoting a safe, socially distanced event. Staging servers with trays of drinks at the entrance while guests arrive also provides a personal touch and keeps people away from overcrowding a bartender upon arrival.
With all of that said – some people ARE ready for a return to a more “normal” style party. And there’s a way to do that safely as well – passed hors d’oeuvres in individual vessels keeps everyone’s fingers from handling the same food and can really add something special to the presentation. Think: exquisite white spoons of Hamachi crudo with yuzu and clementine, or saki cups of creamy, decadent lobster bisque. Add in our signature mini bowls – two-to-three bite composed entrees – and you guarantee your guests a unique experience as they’ll never have to take a seat to enjoy their individual meals at socially distant high top tables. You gain the variety of a buffet with the artistic complexity of a composed dish all within a Covid-friendly roaming reception.
It was an unparalleled year for us all. And there’s a lot to consider as we begin to return to larger-scale events and gatherings. But if there’s one thing event professionals know how to do, it’s pivot and be creative. We are solution-oriented and we are stronger together. We can’t wait to get back to celebrating and working alongside other industry experts full-force to create memories and experiences for our clients and friends that we hold so closely to our hearts.