LOS ANGELES — Tracy Aubert and Tiffany Hendryx are the kind of sisters who can complete each other's sentences.
That kind of connection has helped keep their business going at a time when estimates indicate 1 in 6 restaurants have had to close for good during the pandemic and hiring quality staff can be a challenge.
What You Need To Know
- Estimates are that 1 in 6 food and drink businesses had to close for good during the pandemic
- In 2020, the food and drink industry saw nearly 2.5 million fewer jobs than pre-pandemic levels
- The restaurant industry showed sales $240 billion below pre-pandemic forecasts, according to a National Restaurant Association’s report
- A combination of factors including COVID-19 fear, job uncertainty and government unemployment support has made staff hiring a challenge as business has returned
Aubert and Hendryx were determined not to let the pandemic kill their food catering business, which they call Blood Sweat + Butter.
While business, which specializes in photo shoots and events like weddings, has been steadily returning, finding new employees has been tricky.
“There were a lot of people who were wanting to come back to work, and then a whole lot of people who are not wanting to come back to work knowing that things might close down again,” said Hendryx.
It has been tricky finding employees who are willing to interact with the public, like delivery drivers and servers.
“We had nobody to drive,” Hendryx said. “We had to turn down jobs because we, overnight, had no drivers once the bars opened up again.”
The sisters pivoted to home meal delivery and recruited friends and family as drivers, so they could keep the business running at the kitchen. However, a combination of COVID-19 fear, uncertainty and government unemployment benefits made it harder to fill positions.
“As business returned, people were still nervous about COVID and nervous about interacting with people and it got really hard to try to get, especially drivers and servers to come in who were going out to photoshoots to serve people,” explained Aubert.
Aubert and Hendryx have never pursued a brick and mortar restaurant. Catering offers them more variety and flexibility and less overhead, and that served them well during the shutdown.
“[Catering] is all about being able to ‘MacGyver’,” said Aubert. “It’s like, ‘Oh crap, we forgot the ‘spider’ for the pasta, and now we have to make one out of an aluminum tray.’ All that kind of stuff is stressful. It's also just what [catering] is.”
The pandemic has also changed the way things are done at Blood Sweat + Butter.
No more open buffets. Everything is individually apportioned into containers, and that adds labor time and affects environmental impact.
“We try to use all biodegradable packaging, so that at least helps us not feel so bad about the packaging,” Hendryx said.
Sada Dutra is one of Blood Sweat + Butter’s longtime employees. She is grateful the team was able to keep the business going.
“I feel super lucky,” said Dutra. “So many people in this industry lost their jobs, and Tiffany and Tracy wouldn't let that happen. Of course, I've worked a little less, but they were adamant and dedicated to keeping me on, and I feel really grateful for that.”
“We've got an amazing team now,” said Hendryx. “Like family — they know that they have work. We know that we can count on them. It's great.”
Aubert and Hendryx said catering events have returned with a vengeance and they can breathe a small sigh of relief, for now.