Featuring President John Serock of John Serock Catering
Our next edition of Hometown Hospitality Stars features John Serock Catering. John Serock, the President, gives us some insight on how his company has adjusted during the last few months. The company is based out of West Chester PA and caters all throughout the region. John informed us about the state of his business and the industry by answering the questions below.
1. What is a way you’ve seen the community come together during this time?
“I personally have been overwhelmed by how many people, from clients and neighbors to fellow business owners, that have reached out during this to see how they could help. From clients offering to pay for their future weddings in full to local business leaders buying and sending meals to Front Line responders, everyone was looking for a way to help give back.
This pandemic has affected everyone in different ways; some financially, some medically and many emotionally, but I noticed a side of human compassion that I hadn’t witnessed in a long time.”
2. What is something your company has done for the community?
“We started a program called WC (West Chester) Cares. Close to 1800 students in the West Chester area School district (16% of the student population) rely on the district’s free or reduced lunch program. I realized with school not in session many families rely on breakfast and lunch for their children. While the district did start distributing breakfast and lunch to students that they could pick up, many of these parents still had to worry about dinner. I called my children’s principal who put him me in touch with social workers for the district and from that outreach, West Chester Cares began.
Here’s how it worked: For every meal (feeding 4-5 people) purchased, John Serock Catering donated a meal to a family in need within the school district; very much like buy one, get one free. The response was amazing, greatly impacting the community. “We sold over 1,100 family meals and in addition received a ton of private donations, We were able to donate over 1,500 Family meals which provided more than 7,500 individual meals.”
3. What is a positive change you’ve seen in your company over the last few months?
“Having (like it or not) the time to pause our operations led to some serious soul searching. When everything first hit and we had no idea how long we would be shut down for, we started looking at every line of our P&L and figuring out what services were needed to survive and which services could be put aside for the time being. Essentially we started back almost like a new company. We made decisions to focus on the areas that were most profitable and find ways to move away from revenue streams that were holding us back for many years.
From the human side, I have always looked at my team and been proud of the family we have put together here. As the leader, I’m always the one that everyone turns to when they need answers. A few days into this I was really struggling because I felt helpless, for the first time in awhile I didn’t have all of the answers. I had some of my team members come to me in private and tell me it’s okay not to have all of the answers right now, no one does! That sense of reassurance that my crew had my back made the past few months much more bearable.”
4. What is your forecast for the future of the wedding industry?
“While I think 2021 is going to be a very strong year for weddings, I think they will take on a different feel. We are already seeing significantly lower estimated guests counts and maybe not as much extra services as we have seen in past years. Clients are seeking language in their contracts specific to Covid as it pertains to Food and Beverage minimums, flexibility to reschedule and more favorable (for the client) cancellation policies. I think many people may unfortunately forgo a lot of the extra services that can really set a wedding apart in order to limit how many contracts they are involved in.”
5. What is a positive change you’ve seen in the event industry?
“The sense of community, not just in the Philadelphia market, but across the country has been one of the true bright spots during all of this. I have witnessed first hand, fellow professionals who, although they may be competitors, working together to help move our industry forward and get back to work. Fellow caterers who I may normally see or talk to once or twice a year are now a part of my weekly phone calls and text exchanges. When we first starting doing events again back in July, staffing was a major issue, a couple of phone calls and I went into my first weekend with staff from 3 separate competitors helping me out.”
6. What is your favorite story from the last few months from your industry or company?
“Two stories come to mind. When we were handing out donated meals back in April I had a woman ask me for one of my cards. She told me when she got back on her feet, she wanted to place an order to pay us back for our generosity. Another woman left a Thank You card for us one afternoon, in it she wrote very simply “As a grandmother raising 3 teenage boys, these meals not only provided nourishment but also hope that there is always someone watching your back.”
That line really sums it all up, I think we are all just looking for a little hope right now.”
Special thank you to John Serock for his time and honesty about the industry and John Serock Catering. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in all different ways. It is refreshing to see a positive take on this part of the year. We will continue to hear from more Event Professionals in the near future. Keep up to date with us by following us on our website, facebook, and instagram.