Imagine if your business was planned in this way: minimal revenue for Q1, and maximum revenue for Q2. And for Q2, an unprecedented pandemic has moved people away from each other and toward perhaps the biggest economic rescheduling exercise in modern history.
Welcome to the world of weddings.
This year, more than 2.2 million people were or are planning on getting married in the U.S., and 24 percent of them were aiming for May and June. For companies like Pennsylvania’s Roots Catering, the COVID-19 disruption has been inconvenient and potentially devastating for business. But an honest assessment of the market and an opportunistic look at its business process has enabled Principal Owner Matt Bubbenmoyer to make the best of a bad situation.
“We've seen a number of rescheduled events for the month of March and April,” he said. “We're shifting our clients back further into the year, a big shift as far as the income and its timing throughout the year. Generally, we would have expected a significant amount of money to be coming in the door in March and April. Now it's going to be May or June before those contracts come to fruition. So that's a big impact for us.”
Roots serves the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, a largely rural area about 90 miles west of New York City. It owns one of its wedding facilities, services two others and specializes in farm-to-table fare. The company was planning on debuting a new mobile catering facility in late March, but that has been delayed.
As Bubbenmoyer noted, Roots luckily had fairly open availability for July and August, and has been able to reschedule a large number of clients for those months. So far, he has had no cancellations. Right now, his income is deferred. But like many in the event business, if the COVID-19 crisis drags on through the summer, his business could take a major hit.
“These people are going to go through with their nuptials,” he said. “It really becomes a question of when. The current forecast is, we're saying summer, and we're just pushing a few things back, and that's a very tolerable shift in income and cash flow that we normally anticipate. If this continues to go into September, for instance, that's a totally different ball game, because then you're going to have clients canceling their events because they don't know when they can reschedule.”
Roots has been in business for 12 years, and because it has been booked solid with weddings, it has not branched out into other kinds of events. In order to accommodate his current contracts, Bubbenmoyer has waived attendance minimums, waived cancellation fees and stayed in touch with rescheduling options. Although his clientele has to reconsider the formality and size of their weddings, he doesn’t see a major paradigm shift in the tradition.
The downtime has given Roots’ staff the opportunity to work on the company’s website, cater to the needs of current contracts and launch the aforementioned mobile catering unit. That unit has been the source of a welcome and somewhat surprising change to the business model. It was initially set to launch at a local winery during the weekend of March 23. However, the crisis made that gathering impossible, so Bubbenmoyer came up with an even better idea: Get that food to the people who need it.
“As soon as I got off the phone with the winery, we spoke to a Safe Harbor (homeless shelter and food bank) in Easton and all of the residents at Safe Harbor and some of the public came in for both lunch and dinner,” he said. “We had an overwhelming outpouring of gratitude and appreciation. You know, we have leftover food after these events, and we would like to utilize this product in a better way. So we're going to be working with Safe Harbor in the future.”