Of all the businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the events industry has been one of those hit hardest. 

The thought of having thousands of people crowded into small spaces or singing along to live music feels a million miles away from our current world of social distancing and household bubbles. 

What’s more, these kind of large-scale events are likely to be the last area of society to re-open when the Covid-19 crisis eventually eases. But what do you do if your entire business is based around catering at events?

In the case of Vanessa Gilpin, the 30-year-old director of catering business ‘&munch’, the challenges posed by lockdown didn’t slow down her ambition.

She used the lack of event bookings to dedicate her time to the rebrand of her business (formerly known as strEAT events) and the launch of a new digital platform that will allow people to connect with and book independent caterers.

She said: “The new platform allows us to be pretty hands-off. People can use the website to connect with over 150 caterers across Scotland, and we do anything from weddings up to large-scale events.

“Lockdown has definitely been a learning experience in terms of being able to diversify and find new avenues for business. And for us, it enabled us to focus our efforts on our new brand and getting that to a point of excellence.”

And when it comes to the limited events that are currently able to take place, Ms Gilpin has ensured that &munch has adapted swiftly to the ‘new normal’.

“The whole wedding industry has obviously changed, which was previously a big market for us. But people have still wanted to go ahead with weddings, and we have made the catering more of an experience for them, more intimate.

Normally for a wedding we would be catering on a large scale, for say 100 guests, but now with the restrictions it is a maximum of 10-20 guests. So we have found that people have been spending more per head rather than more overall, but making it a lot more personalised.

“We have also seen a rise in socially-distanced markets. People still want to get out and have food – but they might not want to be in a restaurant, and so because our vendors generally operate outdoors, there has been room for events that let people enjoy great food outdoors. So although the events industry has changed, and certainly the way people are doing events, we have been able to keep some of our existing clients and still deliver catering for them.”

Yet, despite Ms Gilpin’s business having made it through the first lockdown, we are now essentially in a second one – with lots of uncertainty in the months to come. 

But in true entrepreneurial spirit, she isn’t letting that put her off. 

“Given all the restrictions – and even that word ‘restriction’– it can make people think quite small. And I think for me, one of the things that I have realised over the last few months is that you have to be careful to get out of that small thinking, think big again and think about the future in a less restrictive way. 

“So for us, over the next six months we are launching the new brand, and just looking to get back out doing events and helping the small businesses that we do get to work with as much as we can.”

Part of this will involve looking at events in different ways. Ms Gilpin admits she will have to “think outside the box” and says she was inspired by the news of a drive-thru wedding held in Essex, where over 200 guests were delivered food by caterers through their car windows. “We will look at utilising outdoor space more, rethinking spaces and venues to see where events can happen. Our plans over the next two to three years is to expand the marketplace both UK-wide and internationally.”

Ms Gilpin’s resilience has been built up, in part, by the mentorship and advice she has received by participating in the RBS Entrepreneur Accelerator programme. 

“It gave us a great foundation for the business and exposed us to the entrepreneurial sphere in Glasgow and Scotland. It’s important not to spend too much time in a mindset of negativity, not minimising the plans that you did had before but instead finding ways to bring those plans to fruition.”


This article appears as part of The Herald's Entrepreneur campaign, in association with RBS.

If you would like to become a partner in our Entrepreneur, contact Stephen McDevitt, Head of Digital and Branded Content campaign@heraldandtimes.co.uk

See www.andmunch.co.uk