How This Local Catering Company Adapted Their Business To Survive Lockdown

“Nothing is set in stone, all normality can be flipped upside down very quickly. Don't get too comfortable and plan ahead."

Kirsten Curtis |

We understand your concerns when ordering food during the pandemic, because we feel it too. MH staffers have gone through their fair share of grocery disinfectant and have debunked many coronavirus myths on the internet when it comes to ordering takeout.


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What’s more, is we’ve been concerned for local business during this time. So we spoke to Head Chef and Director at The Flying Pan, Mathew Hoepner, to talk business and find out how the Cape Town based catering company has kept afloat while staying safe and sanitised during SA’s lockdown.

The Hit

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the national lockdown, which started on 26 March, thousands have lost their jobs. According to Fin 24, estimates for April suggested some 20 000 jobs were shed.

The first month of the crisis saw an estimated drop of 60% in the income of informal workers globally, while worldwide, over 430 million enterprises faced high risks of “serious disruption”. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned that nearly half of the global workforce is in immediate danger of losing their livelihood. That’s 1.6 billion workers worldwide.

Related: 15 Fresh Food Delivery Services To Try In Lockdown

And these concerns resonated with The Flying Pan, “Our immediate concern was for our staff, he says. “Their financial and personal safety. It has been a trying time as we still await payment for our foreign staff from the TERS UIF fund. So far it has been a run-around and over half of the way through the month still no payment has been received [sic]. Our next concern is making sure the business survives and we can see future growth.”

With The Flying Pan’s game plan now focused on providing the best quality and service to customers, in the hope that things get better. “Overall, the impact has been negative, orders are low, but we are working toward positive growth again and as more regulations are eased, orders should be on an upward trajectory. So we are just focusing on our quality and service for now,” he adds.

The Challenge

It’s been a tumultuous few months for the business, says Mathew. “Initially, we had to close our business which meant a sudden loss of income and we had to put our staff on leave.. We resumed trade after obtaining the correct certificates only to close again due to the regulation of no prepared food deliveries.”

The lockdown also saw other revenue streams coming to a halt for the catering company. “We also do a lot of events catering, weddings and corporate work, all of which ground to an immediate halt. Luckily, we could postpone a lot of our wedding clients to future dates, but corporate work will take a while to start up again.

“Another challenge is the increased food cost due to supply chain disruptions, we will need to increase our prices soon and it comes at a bad time for our clients.”

The Flying Plan

Food being packaged at The Flying Pan.

First things first: staying safe. The Flying Pan put in place strict protocols to ensure their food and packaging remained safe to use and consume, incorporating social distancing into the kitchen space.

“We obviously are practicing social distancing in the kitchen and we follow procedures with sanitisation and PPE equipment,” says Mathew. “We have also reduced our delivery days from five to three [days per week], to limit interaction with clients.”

The catering company has kept strict procedure when it comes to food preparation and packaging, and have allocated different time slots for each task, to ensure a disciplined, safe approach. “We have limited our staff in the kitchen and have food preparation and food packaging teams on different days. Our food is portioned then bagged before it reaches the client.”

The Lessons

Mathew Hoepner, Head Chef and Director at catering company, The Flying Pan.

There’s a lot Mathew has taken home from this experience. “Nothing is set in stone, all normality can be flipped upside down very quickly. Don’t get too comfortable, and plan ahead,” he says.

His advice for other business owners in the industry? “Focus on your offering, make sure it’s very good and eventually business will return, this is a very tough time for most catering/food companies, and hopefully we all make it through this patch.

“Covid-19 is here for a while, we need to adapt to the new normal and business will pick up eventually. We can also expect covid-19 to change the way people shop for groceries and meals. Online will become more important and food businesses need to think of how to use technology to streamline their business and meet consumer expectations.”

Support Local

The Flying Pan is dedicated to providing food that’s fresh, healthy and of high quality. I tasted their food, and can attest to their standards. A winner for me, is their variety of practical, yet healthy choices: they provide a classic menu, vegetarian menu and low-carb menu to choose from.

Pro tip: Their vegetarian Mediterranean Meatball dish is a delicious option if you’re wanting to go meat-free.


Healthy dinners on a daily basis, delivered to homes and offices in Cape Town’s City Bowl and Southern Suburbs.


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