Catering and Events by Suzette: Evolving Through the Pandemic
Suzette Ralls Lane, one of Williamson’s and Nashville’s top caterers, went from a breakneck pace to a complete halt in her business within days. Her company, Suzette Events and Catering, like countless others, had to shut their doors.
“We had just done an event for 800 and another for 200 when the floor collapsed beneath us. We went from a booked calendar to nothing. Just nothing,” she said.
She furloughed her staff so they could get unemployment. She and her talented chef, J.J. Aguilera, didn’t want to give up creating and preparing gourmet food. They wanted to keep busy.
“We wanted to share our God given talents; we came up with a plan to keep cooking, keep sharing our passion. We prepared and delivered food and meals to 150 friends within the first month of lockdown. It filled our souls to help folks out during this rough time,” she said.
Next up, recreating her business model.
“The days of cheese trays and charcuterie boards are over as are help-yourself buffets. It’s a whole new world. We have to adapt. I’ve talked with catering friends across the country in collaborative efforts to determine how to move forward, and I’ve scoured the internet for ideas,” she said.
She discovered serving trays made in Hawaii that have acrylic shield with logos for passing appetizers. They’ve ordered acrylic guards for buffet tables. They will pick up food as selected by guests with tongs and plate them. Guests will touch no serving utensils.
“J.J. has built rolling cars for us to use during cocktail hours. We will serve appetizers in gloved hands from the carts to small plates. It’s akin to tableside service. We will be doing mostly plated meals. In fact, we’ve just done a small wedding in a Westhaven home that went 100 guests to 30. We served plated meals served in boxes that looked like gifts. Everyone enjoyed them. Guests didn’t wear masks, but of course we did,” she said.
Her intention is to evolve, stay creative and continue to share her passion for food.
“We’re now wearing black tunics, masks and gloves. We want to look classy and classic for events. We are open for dinner parties and very small events,” she said.
She plans to be full speed by July. She is booked until the end of the year.
“These are certainly very troubled times,” she said. “I am blessed to have had savings to get me through. I was very fortunate to get one of the small business loans that the Federal government made available. The loans are game changers,” she said.
In 2019, she catered well over 100 events, from weddings to fundraisers to private parties. Her many clients include the Frist Art Museum in Nashville. She is the sole caterer for weddings and events for the Graystone Quarry venue.
She has been in the catering business for 27 years and she plans to stay in this business she loves.