So, trays of cling-filmed sandwiches and a big vat of soup?
Not in 2018. Restaurant chefs are shaking up events catering, with a number of big names moving into the space. Launching and running restaurants is getting tougher, and catering at events allows restaurants to sidestep the eye-watering costs associated with bricks and mortar sites.
Why pay rent, when you can use someone else’s venue?
Exactly. Tom Kerridge announced last month that the team behind his two-Michelin starred restaurant The Hand & Flowers in Marlow would be launching catering and events business Lush, in partnership with exhibition and event organisers Brand Events. Dishes created by Kerridge and his executive chef Kieran Reilly can be tailored to suit particular events, ranging from dinner parties to street food festivals.
Blimey, he must be busy.
Well, it is unlikely the chef himself would be at the event. He might have a few Michelin stars but he can’t be in two places at the same time. More likely is that creative control will be given over to his trusted Marlow team, with menu design overseen by Kerridge. It’s likely to be the same at Will Lander and his team’s new company, Portland Events, which will see Lander, co-founder Dan Morgenthau and chef Merlin Labron-Johnson “bring the restaurant’s elegant cuisine” to homes and event spaces.
I’m assuming they won’t actually bring it with them…
Of course they won’t, they’ve got three restaurants to run. But dishes from their restaurant group will be available on their events menu.
Nice. So no need for a development kitchen?
Not for Portland, but over in Hackney Wick, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro and Morito fame have just launched their catering company, Casa Moro, offering Spanish, Middle Eastern and Cretan flavours as well as a for-hire private dining space. The company will be doing most of its catering ‘outside’ despite the space having a 60-standing capacity, so while it sits empty it will be used as the production kitchen for the external events.
No rent dodgers there, then!
Nope - and it will take the strain off the kitchens when they do have events on. In a slightly different vein, prisoner-rehabilitation restaurant charity The Clink is launching a central production kitchen for its catering operation, Clink Events, at a women’s prison in Surrey.
In the slammer?
Yes, the charity’s events company has become so popular with people who want to order the type of food they have tried in the company’s restaurants that it has had to build a separate production kitchen to keep up with demand. It will allow the charity to train an extra 50 prisoners a year. Plus, it will also have a 20-cover private dining room… a bit like the Casa Moro model, only behind bars.
Right. So basically, these catering companies are ways for restaurants to increase profit without having to lay down any real roots?
For some companies, yes. For others, having a business can allow them to expand outside of the immediate area they’re in.
Chef, restaurateur and cookbook writer Alastair Little launched an eponymous online soup and sauce delivery business this month for Notting Hill residents. He plans to expand the company, By Alastair Little, outside of west London and the rest of the UK by growing the business through local hubs.
He takes online orders for the products he used to sell at the now-closed Tavola deli. Following legal wranglings, Little’s eponymous restaurants are now controlled by his former partner. But it looks like she couldn’t stop him using his name on his soup.