When a global pandemic puts in-person events on ice, how does a high-flying catering company survive?
By pivoting to feed families with school-age kids, and by working with their bank to keep PPP funds flowing.
Jason and Caryn Roland, the husband-and-wife duo behind renowned St. Francisville catering company Heirloom Cuisine, are no strangers to navigating complex logistical challenges. During more than fifteen years in business, Heirloom Cuisine has earned an enviable reputation for delivering memorable culinary experiences for events across the southeast—from weddings and galas to graduation parties and corporate events—serving fine-dining fare that is prepared and transported from their commercial kitchen situated north of St. Francisville, or served on-site from a fully-equipped mobile kitchen.
Classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America and formerly Executive Banquet Chef for New Orleans’ Windsor Court Hotel, Chef Jason’s ability to deliver sophisticated menus at scale is second to none. Add Caryn’s experience as an event manager and wedding planner working at hotels in New Orleans, Aspen, Rhode Island, and Naples, Florida, and Heirloom Cuisine commands the ability to quality control every aspect of the events they cater—whether that be an intimate rehearsal dinner for 25, a wedding for 800 in Winnfield, Louisiana, or the 1,000-person gala Heirloom staged to mark Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System’s 100th anniversary in 2011.
A key to Heirloom Cuisine’s success had always been their ability to move fast and adapt to changing circumstances. But in early 2020, when the onset of the coronavirus pandemic caused almost all in-person events to be canceled or postponed, what then? “In two weeks we canceled between forty and fifty events,” remembers Caryn. “Every call was another cancellation; it got to where I was afraid to answer the phone.”
With revenue down more than 75% and more than twelve full and part-time jobs on the line, the Rolands turned to Bank of St. Francisville to navigate the PPP funding application process. Working with their local bank proved to be a lifeline.
“BSF was amazing,” Caryn says. “They went the extra mile to help us, working tirelessly over the weekend and late at night to help us and other small businesses to get our applications in.”
Caryn explains that after the first round of PPP funding was granted she wrote the bank a letter “… because they treated us like their most important clients! At a time when so many banks only had time for big corporations, and not to help the small businesses, that was a lifesaver. We couldn’t have made it otherwise. And we couldn’t be more appreciative.”
With events on hold and the stay-at-home order firmly in place, the Rolands kept Heirloom Cuisine busy by focusing on what it could do to help their community. When schools shut down, Heirloom Cuisine provided over 4,000 meals for local families with children enrolled at West Feliciana Middle School, ensuring that students continued to have access to free, nutritious food while not able to attend school in person. The company adapted to social distancing circumstances, offering to-go lunch and dinner options, and serving dishes small-plate style, rather than by buffet, once small gatherings began to be permitted again.
Sixteen months since the onset of the pandemic, Heirloom Cuisine is busier than ever—with a full book of events stretching through the summer and beyond. Despite the ongoing challenges of navigating a return to in-person events, Caryn has never been more grateful to be back doing what she and Jason know best—working hand-in-hand with their clients to make life’s landmark occasions unforgettable. Post-pandemic, that’s a privilege she knows the couple will never take for granted
“To be a part of the biggest day of someone’s life can be overwhelming,” Caryn says. “We work very hard to make sure every detail is covered, and we couldn’t be more grateful or honored to be able to do this for a living. It is truly a joy to work with and for our clients.”
To learn more about how Bank of St. Francisville can help establish, grow, or expand your business, call 225-635-6397 or click here to schedule an appointment. To get more local stories like these in your inbox, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.