In years to come when I look back at the coronavirus pandemic, it will be the month of March that will stick out most strongly in my mind. While the coronavirus first made news in December, and January saw the UKs first cases, it was in March that the virus first made the most profound impact on our daily lives. First over 70s were asked to self isolate on the 15th, then the prime minister advised against all non-essential travel. The 20th March saw the closure of all pubs, restaurants and cafes with the nationwide lockdown following shortly after on the 23rd.
It was in this context that we entered what unbeknownst to us, would be our final week of wedding prep on March 16th. We had two weddings that weekend, both at Gate Street Barn. Going into that week we certainly had worries that the government advice would prevent our future weddings from going ahead, but we pressed on as if they were, feeling a strong sense of duty to our couples getting married.
Despite our best efforts and the best efforts of our couples and Gate Street Barn, as the week progressed it became clear that it would be impossible for weddings to go ahead as planned. The coming days would see a great deal of change, as like everyone else, we did our best to navigate our new normal. The priority for us was always to do our best to reassure our clients, and this took many forms; countless phone chats and emails (these would hit a peak after any government address!), zoom meetings and, of course, agreeing many wedding postponements. We were also very pleased to donate many of our excess fresh ingredients to The Royal Surrey, Guildford.
Our next steps would be less clear, as the buzz phrase we have all heard a million times encapsulates, this was, after all, ‘an unprecedented time’! We were determined not to close our Surrey kitchen and so over the next few weeks we, like so many others in the hospitality sector, developed a plan to pivot to other forms of catering. We took our time to consider the various options because we knew that whatever we did had to be good, and, as our clients had come to expect, of the very best quality.
After some consultation with a few past and current clients, we decided that ramping up our ready meal options made the most sense for us. When I initially co-founded the original Tandem Catering, our range of chilled food was for a long time a cornerstone of our business. We believed then, and still do that there is nothing else available that is quite comparable in terms of quality, and feel strongly that all our clients whether they are sole diners at home, or hosts to large weddings and parties, deserve food made with the same integrity and generosity.
Now more than ever it seemed therefore a natural fit for us to return to gourmet ready meals. Not only would it enable us to continue doing the thing we love the most, cooking and creating dishes, it enabled us to provide our clients with delicious meals and hopefully a welcome distraction from the monotony of lockdown.
Alongside our friends at Taurus Wines, we came up with a plan to develop a range of ready meals. First it was our popular Lasagne al Forno and Thai Green Curry, then our Genoese Pesto and Spiced Lamb Tagine. Our Tandem chocolate brownies with a separate pot of chocolate fudge sauce, ready to warm through, also proved to be a popular sweet treat. All items are easily ordered from Taurus’s website, packaged beautifully and delivered with contactless delivery. The response so far has been fantastic, with a number of people kindly emailing to say how much they enjoyed their meal. This has really spurred us on to continue to offer these meals and expand our range.
But what else does the future hold for Tandem Catering Godalming? We continue to monitor the latest news and government advice, and remain hopeful that we will be able to fulfil at least some of our remaining weddings and events this year. We are also buoyed and grateful for the continuing steady stream of enquiries and new bookings. As before we continue to support our current couples as best we can and remain in constant communication with them. In the immediate future, we have several ideas in the pipeline to expand our ready meal offerings with different seasonal meals and products but also other meal packages (more to be revealed on this later!). We have so enjoyed producing these meals that they may well continue to produce them once the wedding and event industry sector returns to normal (or at least a semblance of normal!).
Finally, there are a few other important projects going on behind the scenes. We have successfully laid the groundwork to move into a fantastic new (and much improved!) premises. It will be a few more months before this will be completed, but things are progressing very well. We’re really excited about how our future home will benefit Tandem and our clients moving forward and can’t wait to share more details with you!