Interviewee: Chef Penny from the New York Metro Region
Food Startup Help has reached out to several business owners, chefs, and experts in the food industry to see how they’re adjusting to the changes that the pandemic has imposed on the industry. We have conducted an interview in a Q&A format.
For today Food Startup Help is featuring New York, Chef Penny. In this interview, she explains cake trends and what this facet of the field will look like post-pandemic.
Food Startup Help: Before the COVID lockdown, what were the biggest trends you were seeing in your perspective of the food industry?
I find cake trends tend to last quite a while, so metallics, grey as a neutral color and heavy textures like stone intermixed with delicates like wafer paper or rice paper flowers are all still very popular. For Sugar Couture, we work as much as possible to avoid trends. We believe that for custom cakes, longevity comes with creativity and finding a way to represent each couple in their cake. We work very closely with our clients to find the design that is perfect for their event, and because of this, we don’t copy other’s designs.
Food Startup Help: Do you expect that to change or shift after the quarantine period and economic slowdown? How?
I have always tried to find ways of working within parameters and budgets, keeping profitability in mind. So the cakes may be simpler than before. One of the things I’m taking away from this time is that as a society, we’ve reduced things down to the necessary. This means that for the moment, delicious is prioritized over extravagant. I imagine as the quarantine lessens, and larger groups become safer, the cakes we’ll see will still be paired back for the time being. And when this is all over, around 2022, I think there will be a decided shift to extravagant as a reaction to the simpler times.
Food Startup Help: How is the reopening/planned reopening affecting other businesses you work within your region?
I’m seeing a lot of inquiries for 50 serving wedding cakes. I believe that when venues are allowed to reach that capacity, there will be a reasonable amount of events booked for the end of 2020, assuming we stay on the same trajectory in terms of opening post the Covid-19 quarantine. Because of the government guidelines and social distancing, many previously scheduled events are moving to 2021. I think we’re going to see that be a booming year for those in the industry that can hang on until then. I also think that several of the smaller cake companies will close, and move on to other things. So there may be even more opportunity for those businesses that continue on.
Food Startup Help: What do food business owners need to be aware of now and for the next few years?
Flexibility is going to be key.
It always is in business, but in my particular event space, its a very customized experience and so I’m able to bend with their needs. Finding ways of staying profitable while adjusting to smaller projects, with smaller budgets will be essential, but in niche markets like mine, it’s tricky. You can’t just pivot to another product and have it be profitable.
Custom work is not set up in the same way that volume work is. There may be a time that we will have to work with much less help and take on a higher volume of projects for a while. Maintaining quality and originality in this will be a challenge, but so important if we’re going to come out on the other side.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: Are there other important factors impacting you and your business that you would like to share with our readers?
With all large events in the New York City region pretty much canceled or postponed for 2020, our work has shifted to smaller cakes, for smaller gatherings, and with that, we’ve also temporarily suspended our larger minimum order pricing. In the long run, this will not be profitable, but we still want to be a part of as many celebrations as we can to keep up the goodwill with our clients.
Follow along with Chef Penny on Instagram and her hashtag at @sugarcouturecakes