Introducing the Face Behind the Mask:
An Interview with HipCityVeg’s Catering Manager Kristina Petrick on Delivering 3000+ meals to the Frontlines during the COVID pandemic.
Some superheroes don’t wear capes, they carry really big boxes.
Kristina Petrick, Catering Manager and Philadelphia’s own superhero, is leading HipCityVeg’s efforts to cater donated plant-based meals to the city’s hospitals and community organizations during the COVID-19 crisis. Within one year, Kristina went from training and starting a management role at the University City location, to becoming the Catering Manager for the whole company. The beginning of this year saw major opportunities for Kristina and the catering team, but due to the COVID crisis, their mission shifted drastically.
She has lead the company’s efforts to:
Give Shake an Assist and Support + Feed
In April, after the COVID pandemic and related shutdowns, 76er’s player Shake Milton donated 500 meals to feed frontline healthcare workers, helping HipCityVeg launch Give Shake an Assist, which has now delivered 3,000 meals to Philadelphia and D.C. hospital workers. Give Shake an Assist is supported not only by Milton’s generous donation, but by the community’s continued efforts to give back as well. The program encourages people to donate even just one meal for $10 by using our donation page or Venmo @hipcityveg. These donations allow HipCityVeg to provide nourishing and delicious plant-based meals to frontline healthcare workers while upholding the strictest health and safety standards.
In addition to Give Shake an Assist, HipCityVeg also helped launch Support + Feed in Philadelphia. Support + Feed was created by Maggie Baird, mother of pop sensations Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, to provide support for restaurants and organizations that have been directly impacted by COVID-19 like hospitals, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and senior centers. Support + Feed started in LA and made its way to New York and Philadelphia to deliver thousands of plant-based meals to those in need of nourishment. To donate a meal from HipCityVeg, please click here.
Q & A with Kristina Petrick, about the shift in HipCityVeg’s catering efforts before and after COVID:
Q: How did you see your role as Director of Catering at the beginning of the year?
A: We entered 2020 in a mode of growth and expansion. Our Catering sales were increasing in Pennsylvania and DC and our Catering Operation was growing. We launched Catering Operations in two additional locations and embarked upon what we thought would be a busy event season.
How did your role shift after news of COVID-19 spread? Additionally, what steps did you take as lockdown measures increased, and what does your role look like now?
The shift occurred over a 1 week span.
On Monday, March 9, we received a postponement notice for a really exciting event in DC that was scheduled for Wednesday, March 11.
On Tuesday, March 10, we learned a 400+ person Catering Showcase scheduled for that afternoon was canceled at the last minute. It was so last minute that news of the cancellation did not even reach all of the restaurants participating in the event.
Between Wednesday, March 10 and Thursday, March 11, we received cancellation notices for almost every single order and event we had booked through the summer.
On Friday, March 13, the City of Philadelphia announced the shutdown.
Now you have transitioned almost entirely to managing the delivery of thousands of donated meals to hospitals and community organizations. How do you manage delivering ~100 – 200 meals per day and what does your typical day look like?
Our team starts anywhere from 5 to 8 a.m., depending on how many donations and hospitals we schedule to deliver to that day. We aim to be on the road with donations by 10:30 a.m. While the delivery team is out, the rest of the Catering Team resets and prepares for afternoon and evening donation deliveries. We deliver as late as 9 or 10 p.m. to ensure we can accommodate night shift workers in the hospitals.
I am also always on the lookout for large boxes. I will never underestimate the value of a really great box again.
What has it been like to shift from catering for offices and events, to catering donated meals to healthcare frontline workers? Have you seen anything during your deliveries to hospitals that has really touched your heart?
I think everyone in the restaurant industry will agree that one of the biggest changes in Catering is the demand for individually packaged meals, versus family style or corporate catering packages. There is a ton of thought behind our donation meals, how they are individually labeled and individually packaged, without compromising the quality, the flavor and continuing to uphold our eco-friendly mission and standards.
Our delivery approach changed completely. We are no longer in the days of using Catering Drivers, entering a location and setting up a beautiful food display. Now, hospital staff meet us at designated hospital entrances with carts (and grateful donation recipients), we place the boxes of individually packed meals on the carts and watch as hospital staff wheel them away. Did I mention how important large boxes are? We can never have enough of those around!
Thanks to a generous donation from Legendary Logistics, we now have a van and a driver solely dedicated to making hospital deliveries. I also attend each donation delivery with the driver and often accompanied by our CEO and Founder, Nicole Marquis.
One touching highlight is the hospital community response to plant based meals. They welcome our donations with open arms and we introduce so many new people to the idea that plant based food is fun, familiar, delicious and nutritious. Once this all passes, we hope to see them again in our stores.
As Director of Catering, you work with customers, vendors, the community, the catering team, and the rest of HipCityVeg’s staff. How have you been able to lead, inspire, and maintain positive relationships with these different groups during the Covid-19 crisis?
As a Company, HipCityVeg generated a spirit of “giving back” throughout this crisis. We team up with our vendors, the community and our staff to find different ways to contribute to individuals who are in need. The spirit of giving has generated so much positivity and inspiration among us. We are so grateful and fortunate to have Boxed Water, Gardein, Follow Your Heart, Beyond Meat and Daiya make generous contributions to help make these donated meals possible, as well as hundreds of our customers.
What are your biggest challenges right now?
The safety of our employees and our guests is always a top priority. Finding the thin line between providing exceptional service and exercising extreme caution is a challenge.
How have HipCityVeg’s core values inspired your role as catering director, especially in the midst of COVID-19?
Compassion is part of our Mission Statement. Despite our challenges, we continue to remain compassionate towards others–our employees, our guests and our vendors, and of course, the planet.
How have people reacted to the fact that these meals are all vegan?
The response is so positive! For individuals who never tried plant based food, they are blown away by the satisfaction, flavor, comfort and familiarity of our food. For those who follow a plant based diet, they are thrilled to receive a meal donation which suits their dietary requirements. More than anything, our meals are perceived as fun and delicious!
What is your vision for the rest of the year?
What day is it? (Just kidding… although sometimes I’m so exhausted I really don’t know.) Supporting communities and organizations will remain a constant in our Operation. Anything else is hard to predict as we are still in the midst of the pandemic and shutdown. We have to think about what works now, and what we can do now to ensure our survival as a company, but we will always find ways to give back.
What are you looking forward to about going back to catering, and how will this experience have impacted or changed your role as Director of Catering?
I look forward to seeing the faces behind the masks of all wonderful people we met, coordinated with or donated to in the midst of the pandemic.