We are winners!
Our team attended the Nelson Pine Industries Chamber of Commerce Business Awards on Friday evening. It was here that we delightedly won the Nelson Regional Development Agency Innovative Business Award. In a year when many local businesses have had to think on their feet, this category had the largest number of entries, and the competition was stiff! Our small business was up against some much bigger players, so we were particularly thrilled with our win!
You can watch the full awards ceremony HERE, and read on for some snippets from our award-winning entry.
How the story began…
In 2003, I returned to my hometown, Nelson, from a stint working in Australia. Despite good references and an excellent track record in hospitality, I couldn’t find a suitable job. So, I decided to start my own business.
I still recall the day I told my Dad. He felt that it would be difficult for me to get things off the ground during midwinter in Nelson. He actually told me I’d have more luck finding a husband! I love a challenge, so the next day, I leased a professional kitchen for $50 a week and began selling food out of baskets around the CBD. Two weeks later, I had $1100 in my bank account and four forward catering jobs. Gourmet Catering had officially begun. Two decades later, my father and I still laugh that no husband has materialized, although we are both delighted that a successful business has!
As most of you will know, Gourmet Catering has grown significantly since those early days as a sole trader. I now work closely with my team of staff, head Chef Corina, Front of House Manager, Francine and our most recent recruit, Operations Manager, Will.
While, as a catering company, we have continuously adapted to the needs of our clients, 2020 saw us having to become far more innovative than we had ever needed to before.
In the face of adversity:
When the COVID-19 pandemic first raised its head early in 2020, the future was looking very bright for Gourmet Catering. We were just over a week away from the largest conference that we’d ever booked; a multi-day event for over five hundred people. However, on 19th March 2020, the Government announced that all indoor gatherings of more than 100 people were to be cancelled, so we said goodbye to our record conference.
Most of our forward bookings disappeared in a matter of days. As a business owner, I am very aware that my team are the greatest asset my company has, so, at this stage, my focus was ensuring that I didn’t have to let any of them go.
We had stock from our planned conference for which we needed to find a use. I was conscious that elderly and vulnerable people might not be able to shop and cook for themselves as the pandemic unfolded. But, I also knew that we could help. I planned to offer restaurant-quality meals delivered to the door.
The unfolding plan:
Within two days of contacting my website provider and two days before the nation moved to Alert Level 3, we had an online ordering system in place. We began offering a selection of twelve different meal options. We offered free delivery to Nelson, Hira, Wakefield, Motueka and everywhere in between, with a choice of two delivery days each week.
Sadly, we had to call a temporary halt to the service as we went into a national lockdown. But, I spent the time planning how to resume the service, making it bigger and better when the lockdown lifted.
As soon as the country hit Alert Level 3 again on 27th April, we were ready to roll, and the orders came flooding in. Many of you reading this will have placed those orders, and for that, I thank you! You helped to keep us going during one of the most challenging periods for hospitality that I’ve ever known.
We’ve continued to think on our feet throughout the pandemic as further challenges and lockdowns have been sent our way. But the one thing that has been a constant throughout this period has been your unwavering support, for which I, and my team, will be eternally grateful!