The COVID-19 outbreak has had a taken a significant toll on our region's restaurant and hospitality industry and on healthcare workers, who're on the forefront of the crisis. During these dark times, we have also seen an outpouring of generosity from across the state and country. Businesses and local nonprofits have stepped up to provide much needed relief to populations most impacted by the pandemic.
As news of the outbreak spread, organizations around the world began canceling events - an important move to promote public health, but one that devastated local catering businesses. Some GSBA Tourism & Hospitality Members have reported that as much as 80-90% of their events and programs were canceled in the first two weeks of the crisis. That’s why GSBA was thrilled to get a call from GSBA Ruby Sponsor Kaiser Permanente
asking us to connect them with local catering businesses for a tall order - lunch for hospital staff at several Kaiser locations. We introduced them to Chantel Jackson at Thyme Well Spent
, a Tacoma-based catering company and 2019 GSBA New Business of the Year. GSBA Members Marination
and Shooby Doo Catering
were also contacted by Kaiser.
“This was our first gig in two months. We really needed it,” Chantel told us.
Chantel was floored at the opportunity to get right to work. She had the weekend to make the 350 boxed lunch meals Kaiser requested. While large orders are typical for this type of work, the less than normal circumstances made acquiring the necessary ingredients a challenge.
“I was worried about getting supplies with COVID,” Chantel explained, “I had to go to four places to find all the bread!”
Chantel’s tenacity won over the circumstances, and after a quick tour around the city’s grocery stores, she was able to gather all the necessary ingredients. The next step was delivery.
“It was Monday afternoon and raining. I had everything packed in lunch bags in my car, and I was parked next to other caterers with personalized vans and boxes—it was hard not to compare my business to theirs.”
Chantel delivered 350 boxed lunches to Kaiser's Capitol Hill Campus, while Marination catered to Kaiser's Downtown Seattle and Rainier Valley locations, and Shooby Doo Catering provided lunch for four Snohomish County hospitals.
The next day, the Thyme Well Spent crew was thrilled to find out the order came from
global superstar Lizzo, who also purchased lunch for hospital staff at UW Medical Center and several in her hometown of Minneapolis. Lizzo's mantra of self-love and inclusivity, and unwavering allyship towards the LGBTQ community has made her a welcome figure in the Seattle area. Her headlining performance at last summer's Capitol Hill Block Party earned rave-reviews and went down as one of the largest attended performances in festival history.
Chantel explained what this news meant to her, “I feel close to Lizzo – my business was chosen and elevated into the same kind of area as her. This experience makes me feel like I am closer to my destiny.”
With the threat of COVID-19 possibly extending into the lucrative summer months, catering businesses are justifiably worried about their future. Nevertheless, Chantel remains optimistic. In February, Chantel saw a large boost in business after the 39th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards: Thrive Together, where Thyme Well Spent was honored as the 2019 New Business of the Year recipient. Immediately following the event, she booked several events. By the end of the month, many of those events had been cancelled as the outbreak progressed.
“We went from 1000 to 8000 followers on social media after (the awards dinner)," Chantel said. "I’ve been using quarantine as an opportunity to learn how to better engage with the community on our online platforms.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic passes, Thyme Well Spent hopes to look for a retail space to open a soup and sandwiches storefront.
Chantel teaches a Thyme Well Spent intern how to make cucumber and red pepper salad at her kitchen in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood. Photo by Cade Schmidt, GSBA. BOTTOM PHOTO:
Lizzo performs at Capitol Hill Block Party in July 2019. Photo Credit Alex Crick, crickontour.com.