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Beacon Hill Catering Business Pivots, Innovates, and Finds New Opportunity

By Ellie Aaro, Owner, Beacon Hill

We all share those early pandemic moments that brought a tremendous shift to our business world. For us, it was March 12, 2020 while preparing for a 500-person event when we received the call that it was being canceled. This began a relentless surge of phone calls with questions, cancelations, and postponements for upcoming events. In all, about 200 contracted events from that date through the end of the year were either canceled, significantly downsized, postponed (sometimes multiple times), or delayed indefinitely. Within just a couple of weeks, we realized that a pivot from in-person events was necessary.

In early April 2020, Beacon at Home, our family meal delivery program, was born. We had a simple goal in mind; keep our staff employed. In the initial days, our systems were clunky; submission form and emailed orders with a follow-up phone call for payment. Even during this time, our loyal customers showed up. The need appeared high enough to create an online storefront. By Mother’s Day, we were starting to pick up on orders and launched our first holiday meal delivery.

As the year came to a close, the necessity for at-home meals continued and food insecurity plagued many vulnerable populations in Spokane. We created Care to Nourish, a program creating nourishing ready-to-eat meals for families in need. Thanks to generous support from Washington Trust Bank, Spokane Teachers Credit Union, and a partnership with Spokane  Hospitality Coalition, over 2,100 meals were delivered to our partner nonprofits. These meals kept families fed and provided work for our food production partners.

With each new program, there were inevitably challenges. Our Executive Chef Ryan Jordan learned how to adapt to new “at home” ratios and focused on menus that worked well for a reheat  format. We tested holiday corporate giving, but struggled to format our meal delivery concept to appeal to corporate customers. All this time, the events side of Beacon Hill was still running, only now with ever-changing scenarios, restrictions, and guidelines. Tons of quiet hours behind the scenes were put into even the smallest 2020 event. Advocating for some stability for the events industry, while keeping safety at the forefront, became a full-time job.

There were beautiful successes to keep us going. We’ve become more connected with our customers through weekly newsletter and text marketing, where we share Beacon at Home menu offerings and many of our coveted recipes. We were able to meet our goal of keeping our staff employed. Chef Ryan created some delicious new recipes, like his Indian Butter Chicken, or Rosemary Grilled Chicken Thighs – so delicious it is being showcased at many summer weddings. After years of searching, Beacon at Home may even offer a solution to help us more comfortably handle our annual slow season.

Most recently, we’ve added Beacon To Go to our offerings. This new service provides our quality catering with reduced service, packaged in eco-friendly containers. Perfect for gatherings at home, casual corporate meals, and more. Beacon To Go has helped us navigate staffing shortages, while maintaining proper staffing levels for full-service events.

We love these new programs but hosting in-person gatherings at Beacon Hill again is rejuvenating. For 2021, we are nearing 100% recovery for weddings and hoping to see corporate events follow that trajectory for 2022. We continue to run the Beacon at Home program  and love seeing excited faces when we drop off Beacon To Go. The road ahead is still uncertain, but we are hopeful. Most importantly, we are grateful to anyone who has trusted us with anything from a family meal to your most cherished moments throughout our two decades doing business in Spokane.

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