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In 2007, Jonathan Darr and his business partners aptly named their full-service catering company Love Catering.“We all share a passion for food and bringing people together. Food is not just a necessity, it’s a celebration, a shared experience, and an opportunity for people to come together,” he says. “Feeding people has always been our biggest passion.”
Now in its 13th year, the company has not only given back to the local Los Angeles community with programs like Chefs to End Hunger, but it has also built up a reputation for its sustainable practices, helping attract clients like JP Morgan Private Bank, Disney Animation, and Milk Studios.
This year the company was preparing for its busiest spring ever, with several large gala events on the books, including one that was very near and dear to their hearts—the annual Conservation International gala.
But when Covid-19 hit, wreaking havoc on the hospitality industry, Love Catering’s plans took a huge nosedive.
“When the outbreak started we saw all our events cancel one by one until we had a total cessation of all business activity,” says Jonathan. “Literally everything stopped within a few days of stay at home order for Los Angeles. In over 20 years in this industry I’ve never seen anything like this.”
In order to survive during these unprecedented times, Love Catering had to make changes—and quickly.
“We immediately pivoted our business model and in about a week we created a new home meal delivery program and a new website to process orders,” says Jonathan.
The company also began investing more of its time and energy into production catering offerings, so when business resumed (which it did in June), the team would be ready to go with new items and enhanced safety protocols.
But despite these pivots, Love Catering, a labor-intensive business, was losing money. Before the pandemic hit, there were 40 full-time employees; at the worst point, there were only four on payroll.
“We applied for PPP funding so that we could keep our staff and make sure everyone had the resources they needed to survive,” says Jonathan. “We also needed help covering our rent and utilities.”
Initially, the team at Love Catering sought funding from its corporate bank, but found this to be a “maddening process.” So when the SBA announced a second round of funding, Jonathan turned to Lendio.
“It was so easy to complete our application online and to upload documents,” he says. “When I had questions, I could call and actually get a real person on the line very easily. I was very impressed by their efficiency and the simplicity of the process.”
The funds helped bring back 11 people full time.
During the pandemic, Love Catering played an active role serving the community.
“We provided meals to our staff that we had to lay off and worked with our city councilperson’s office to set up a give away for anyone in need in our neighborhood,” says Jonathan. “We also started donating food to frontline healthcare workers at local hospitals. We also doubled down on our commitment to our partner, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.”
After being awarded a $10,000 Lendio Small Business Grant, the company has not only used the money for its own needs, but also to continue giving back.
“We work hard to take care of our clients, our team, and our community, and we are so grateful for the recognition and financial reward,” says Jonathan. “It allows us to continue to give back and also get caught up after a very difficult period. I know many people have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, but those of us in the hospitality industry have taken a significant hit. I hope that this is the beginning of a longer-term turnaround for us.”
Andrea Huspeni is a New York City-based freelance journalist, editor, and PR media consultant. Prior to going out on her own, she was the Special Project Director at Entrepreneur.com, where she oversaw staff series and tent-pole projects, along with contributors’ posts.
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