Elana Kochman was gearing up for the beginning of the busy spring season at Toben Food by Design, a high-end Toronto catering company, when the pandemic hit.
“In a matter of a week, everything came to almost a dead halt,” she says.
With their private events and corporate food programs suddenly cancelled or put on indefinite hold, Kochman says she and business partners Ryan Feldman and Toben Kochman quickly changed gears and began developing a home delivery food service that they could safely execute.
“We turned to the fact that everyone was in their homes and access to groceries was becoming much more difficult,” she says.
Toben’s new line of home meals runs the gamut from prepared entrées, pastas, and salads to vacuumed-packed marinated meats that customers can cook at home. Many dishes are based on popular items from their catering menu, but served in a family-style format.
Orders are placed through their site, with contactless deliveries made Monday to Friday or pick-up available at their Stockyards-area headquarters. Seven weeks into the pivot, Kochman says the response has been strong.
“People were pretty stoked that they could get our food, not just through a function,” she says, adding that they’ve been able to rehire about a quarter of their former 80-person team, most of whom they had initially made the difficult decision to lay off at the beginning of the pandemic.
The delivery program has also given the Toben team the opportunity to give back to a good cause. The company is partnering with Nanny Angel Network, an organization that provides free child care to mothers with cancer in the GTA and Kingston. Toben is providing free meals to select families weekly, helping to support mothers who are too unwell to cook or struggling to access grocery stores.
Customers have the option to make additional donations to the organization when placing meal orders. Kochman says Toben is also currently working on developing new charitable partnerships with other local hospitals and long-term care facilities.
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“It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” says Kochman, adding that she and her partners already plan to continue their home delivery program and their partnership with the Nanny Angel Network after they’re able to resume their normal catering operations. “It’s allowed us to reconnect with clients that we haven’t been able to work with for years, because they haven’t had events to plan.”
As summer approaches, the team is also set to expand their delivery radius to include cottage country areas.
“We’ll be doing drops to different areas, on different days of the week beginning in the middle of June,” Kochman explains.
While Toben has been part of numerous charitable initiatives in the past, Kochman says that the team has appreciated the opportunity to start giving back on a daily basis.
“As concerned as everyone is about their bottom line — no one wants to go out of business during this time — it’s our duty to recognize what we can do with our business, our industry, our craft, and support that way,” says Kochman. “You have to take a humanitarian approach during times like these.”