Caterer Spotlight: La Paella Paella

La Paella Paella is an independent family-run catering service offering paella, tapas and artisan Mediterranean food from sea to land. 

Zane and Arlene’s love of food began at an early age thanks to spending childhoods in Spain with their Spanish grandparents. Fond memories of street parties, music and food stalls on every corner and the heady aroma of paella being wafted all over the barrios provided them with the inspiration to share this tradition of good wholesome food with the next generation.

We catch up with the Harlow based paella pioneers to talk through their beginnings, how they’ve adapted their business through the pandemic when they’re usually heavily reliant on festival trade, as well as what they’re most looking forward to once normal life resumes.

Hi Zane, thanks for catching up with us. Give us a quick rundown of how La Paella Paella was started?

It started as a conversation between my wife and I regarding freshly cooked food and street-food festivals. I have been a musician all my life and have played many festivals where I have eaten the greatest food from all around the world being cooked and served right in front of your eyes. I have always been a food lover and growing up in Spain has given me a taste for Mediterranean food (and the lifestyle). We decided to go for a style of food that we were familiar with and love to eat ourselves. We prepared our recipes and gained the experience to consistently make good quality food for many months before getting started in the street food industry. NCASS have been a great support for us starting from scratch and learning as we go. We have cooked over 1,500 paellas to date and are well received by our customers.

La Paella Paella talk to NCASS

That’s fantastic to hear and they’re by no means tiny portions either! You’re so reliant on festivals and events for trade – how did you feel and what did you do when we went into lockdown?

Lockdown was a total shocker. We had committed to a whole year of festivals with deposits and then everything got cancelled. Luckily the festival organisers have rolled over our pitch fees to next year so it wasn’t a big financial loss.

Nevertheless, this has given us the opportunity to review and reinvent our business model and how we are going to continue to trade during these times and adapt to the ‘”New Normal”. Considering the ‘New Normal’ lifestyle, we decided to try and fill the void of work and earnings by offering delivery and takeaway service in our local area.

How long did it take you to pivot to a delivery model?

It wasn’t easy to start the new offerings as there was uncertainty during the pandemic. It took us around two months to do all the related research, documentation, planning, marketing and launch our own ordering and delivery system. We communicate promotions and offers via Facebook and Instagram.

You certainly prepared well instead of rushing into a decision which is good. What would you say has been most challenging aspect of adapting?

It’s a constant battle to keep our online content and social media presence updated, current and relevant so I would say that was the most challenging part for us. I love working for myself and so it doesn’t feel like so much hard work.

That’s lovely to hear! Are you going to keep any of the ways you pivoted your business through Covid-19 in place?

Yes, it has been a steep learning curve and a challenge. The response we get from our customers has given us inspiration to continue serving takeaways, private catering events, garden parties and weddings or corporate events in our town of Harlow and surrounding areas. When the festivals and street food events start up again we will be continuing all our services and may expand.

What are you most looking forward to doing within the business that hasn’t been possible during Covid-19?

Festivals and street food events. We love the atmosphere where everyone is having a good time, eating good food and generally enjoying themselves.

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