Article taken from Closer Magazine
Sarah Ventre, from Birmingham, ran Full of Chaat, a street food business, pre-pandemic. Here, she explains how she had to change her business completely… “At the start of last year, I was a street food vendor trading at festivals, pop-ups and charity events throughout the Midlands. I was also a regular at street food venue Digbeth Dining Club and catered for large private and corporate events, including weddings.
“After the first lockdown, overnight we lost all our bookings for the summer. It was extremely scary to think we could lose everything we had built up over the last three years, even more worrying was that this was out of our control. I spent a couple of weeks moping about. With the government message to stay at home unless it was essential, I felt extremely conflicted as to whether or not I should be looking at ways of continuing to trade, but I eventually decided to look into how the business could trade while helping others.
“All shops and cafes had shut, including in hospitals, which meant staff weren’t able to access hot meals, so we joined up with the charity ‘Meals For The NHS’ and started providing fresh and tasty meals for nurses and doctors working on the front line, delivering up to 400 dishes to the COVID wards around Birmingham and Walsall. The gratitude we felt was overwhelming. We could help others with our food, but we were also managing to earn enough money to keep our heads above water.
“This continued until June, but with government advice continually changing, it was exhausting having to think of ways to pivot the business. Using click and collect, we were able to start a takeaway service. Then, the government voted against free school meals through the holidays. Feeling outraged I, along with a few others within the hospitality industry, decided to do something. We had hundreds of excellent out-of-work chefs and children in Birmingham in need of nutritious and tasty meals. Myself and Jack Brabant, founder of Digbeth Dining, utilised the brilliant network of traders to feed some of the most vulnerable in our community. We are now providing meals to schools across the city, paid for by the schools out of the Free School Meals Budget. We are working hard to upscale across Birmingham, which will help get tasty food into children’s bellies, and provide small catering businesses with a different line of income indefinitely.
“I can’t wait to get back to selling street food at festivals and catering for weddings, but crisis catering is another aspect to our small business that we will continue forever. We didn’t qualify for any government grants, and our turnover is nowhere near what it would have been, but we are still here, still cooking and still passionate about what we are doing, which is all that matters for now. There’s nothing like knowing you’re making a difference.”
Want to find out more about how Full of Chaat adapted during Covid? Click here to read their Caterer Spotlight interview.