Finding a new normal: President of local catering company discusses how COVID-19 has impacted event planning

Woman dressed in business casual
Photo provided by Hamby Catering & Events

As our community works to collectively adjust to this new normal, we want to share the perspectives of people in the Charleston community who are working to adapt their lifestyles, family dynamics, business models, workflow, + more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we’re hearing from Candice Wigfield, president and owner of Hamby Catering & Events. Hamby is the oldest locally owned catering company in Charleston.

Interested in sharing your own experience? Click here to submit.

What do you do for a living?

I am the president and owner of Hamby Catering & Events, the oldest locally owned catering company in Charleston. I started with Hamby in early 2011 in a Marketing position, advanced to Managing Director through the years, and stepped into an ownership role in Fall 2017.

How has your work been affected by coronavirus?

The coronavirus pandemic has pretty much put a pause on the entire event industry. All of our brides and grooms have postponed, canceled, or opted for a private ceremony, and the Volvo Car Open was also canceled, which we were excited to serve as caterer of record for the sixth consecutive year. In one week, Hamby lost more than $400,000 in canceled event revenue from South Carolina’s outbreak of the coronavirus and we were forced to lay off or furlough more than 80% of our team, but have retained a core food preparation and management team of 15 to 20 people. We have had to pivot and shift our business model on a daily basis for the past month to keep as many of our people safely employed while also providing wholesome meals to the families of the Lowcountry and raising funds for Feeding Our Heroes {providing meals to medical warriors on the front lines}. We opened new avenues to help us rebound from the pandemic’s blow like opening an extension of West Ashley’s the Market at Hamby on Daniel Island, a mobile market in Mount Pleasant and “contact-free” delivery. I believe Hamby has always been responsive, but the creativity and responsiveness that coronavirus has elicited from Team Hamby is on another, much higher, level.

How has your personal life and/or family been affected by coronavirus?

Each day is a labor of love with peaks and valleys and lots of questioning whether or not we are doing the right thing. The entire Hamby team has stepped up to help out, including my father Wayne who is Hamby’s COO. We have all taken on every role in the business – I can now be found prepping food, working the register, delivering meals, and taking orders to help out as much as I possibly can. At night, I lay my head on the pillow and feel at peace that I am fighting for people that I love and believe in. And even though I don’t know the final outcome, I have to trust that the juice will be worth the squeeze. My personal outlets of travel and group exercise have been affected in obvious ways by Coronavirus, but I’ve become an avid steaming workout subscriber. Wine and workouts are my stress relievers. Wine has remained the same…but I’ve shifted the workouts to mostly the virtual variety.

What impacts do you think the pandemic will have on your life and/or business as time goes on?

While this is a time full of uncertainty, it has taught us we are able to pivot our business to continue to serve the community in every way possible. The pandemic has revealed true colors, and team members, many that I would not have expected, have stepped up in unexpected ways to continue to fight for this 41-year-old business. The spirit of Hamby community is truly heart-warming. As we look to the future, we know that the transition back to fully catered events will be a gradual one in which making people feel safe will be of the utmost importance. We have been working closely with our planners and couples to reschedule their spring and some summer weddings, and we look forward to serving them in the future. We will certainly all be more grateful for the opportunity and gift of fellowship when that time comes.

If your business and/or industry has been affected by the coronavirus, what can members of the community do to support your business and others like it during this time?

There are so many ways to continue supporting local businesses and especially those in the events industry. We’re offering Hamby gift cards our guests can purchase to let a local hero know how much you appreciate their hard work, which we then mail to them along with a handwritten note of appreciation. The community can also stock their freezer/fridge/pantry with Hamby favorites, including Tea Sandwiches, Mini Tomato Pies, Meatballs and casseroles at the Market at Hamby in West Ashley (925 St. Andrews Blvd), mobile location in Mt. Pleasant (610 Coleman Blvd) or our Market extension on Daniel Island (20 Fairchild St). From entry to check-out, the entire shopping experience will be completely contact-free with the help of our Hamby team members. Our Hamby team members also provide and coordinate meals for the medical warriors that are fighting the COVID-19 battle on the front lines. Our partnership with Feeding Our Heroes provides business for other local restaurants who are also struggling to survive during this time of uncertainty. Team Hamby loves our medical heroes and our fellow F&B friends, and we fight for you every day!

What do you look forward to doing the most once everything goes back to normal?

On a personal level, I’m excited to support local restaurants by dining out. Our local businesses need our support more than ever; I know this from personal experience. 🙂 I’ve also planned about 10 trips in my head, so I look forward to bringing some of those to reality. For Hamby, we can’t wait to get back to catering the weddings of all our amazing brides and grooms, as well as large events throughout Charleston again.

What message do you have for the Charleston community right now?

We are all flying by the seat of our pants, and I am grateful for the love and light the community has shared with me and my team. This too shall pass, and I look forward to the shared celebration on the other side. Community is more important than it ever has been, and I am grateful for you!

What local restaurant do you plan on dining out at first once this is over?
Oh my! How to pick just one?! Basic Kitchen, Delaney Oyster House, Chubby Fish, Malagon