Cambridge BBQ business is fired up after lockdown hits corporate catering
An about-turn has helped Seb Barker switch from the corporate to the casual to continue catering during the lockdown.
His company, Cantab Catering, provides food and events catering to many corporate clients in Cambridge, as well as festivals, sports clubs and college May balls.
So when the Prime Minister announced lockdown measures in March, it meant a direct impact on Seb’s business unlike anything he has encountered in more than 30 years working in the catering and hospitality sector.
But on that evening, he took a call from friend Kieran Hegarty, who was working in the automotive industry at the time and facing the near certain threat of losing his job because of the crisis.
Seb explained: “Kieran said ‘I’m thinking of buying some pallets of charcoal for local delivery around Cambridge. If I do it, can you sort out BBQ meat packs? I’ve got a mate who can sort us a website which will be able to deal with online ordering and payments so we can do contactless deliveries’.”
Seizing on the opportunity, the duo created Cambridge BBQ.
“Over the next few days the meat packs, menu and pricing were all sorted out and a truckload of charcoal arrived as well,” said Seb, while a website was designed by Seb Granville.
“We organised all the logistics of turning a company designed for catering large events into a local home delivery service. Just five days after the phone call, the website was live and the catering business had been repurposed into one able to operate in the lockdown world.
“The first month has been really positive. The feedback on the food has been great, people are really impressed with the ease of ordering and how quickly it all turns up, there aren’t many places offering free next day delivery at the moment and it’s a lot easier than queueing up outside a supermarket for hours.
“There are two really big positives for me. First, the number of return customers is fantastic, we already have regulars. The second thing is that we’re able to keep people employed.
“We won’t be buying Ferraris but we are helping people to keep food on the table and that’s important in times like these.”
They use local suppliers from East Anglian farms, all the food is marinated in house and, where possible, it is packaged in recyclable or compostable containers.
They have also linked with Cambridge Wine Merchants and The Cambridge Cider Company to offer the opportunity to purchase drinks through the website as well.
Seb added: “It’s been a big pivot for a company that was set up to deliver large quantities of one or two dishes to a single event, normally with weeks of notice, to providing next or same day home delivery of fresh local produce, all selected and paid for online with contactless delivery.”