By Zarah Parker
When the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo made the decision to shut down in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim George said it was like someone flicked a light switch off for her and her husband Jeffrey’s company, Catering by George.
The catering company, which has been based out of the Heights for 32 years, immediately began getting cancellations.
“For us, an average day was 20 deliveries before noon and corporate events and dinners in the evening,” Kim said. “I can’t remember a time in our 32-year history that we didn’t have events and deliveries on our calendar.”
Catering by George was started by Jeffrey, the executive chef, in 1988, three years before he met Kim, who was an event planner. After meeting while bidding on the same event, they began collaborating. After marrying, Kim joined Catering by George full-time.
Initially, Catering by George closed in March until it received Paycheck Protection Program funding in May. The employees were brought back into the business, and they cleaned and refreshed the kitchen, hoping the market would pick back up.
“If not for catering then take-away,” Kim said. “Unfortunately, we are not known for take-away so that would have taken quite a bit of time to build.”
In July, the George’s made the decision to shut down their catering business and let go of all their employees due to the strain of the lack of business during the pandemic. Kim said with many people working from home, no one was catering meetings or events.
But that wasn’t the end for them. The husband-wife duo pivoted away from catering and into the kitchen rental market. This allows them to use their kitchen space at 906 N. Loop E. as a shared-use, commissary kitchen that is a commercially licensed space where chefs, bakers, caterers, food trucks and other culinary professionals can rent cooking space by the hour. The kitchen rental can be found here: thekitchendoor.com/kitchen-rental/cbg-kitchen.
“We knew the market to sell the business was not great and we wanted to keep our building, so this was the next logical step,” Kim said. “We have lots of space and equipment to share with those just starting out. My husband had retired from the catering business a few years back and I have been running the company without him, so this is something that we can do to work together again and a way to give back by sharing our 30-plus years of catering experience.”
Since the kitchen is already designed as a commissary kitchen, Kim said it’s the perfect space for this type of operation. For being new to the kitchen rental market, the business already has a few renters and more in the works.
One company is Fast Squeeze, which is a mobile cart that sells cold-pressed juices and mostly operates near Hermann Park and Buffalo Bayou Park. Other renters include a baker who sells baked good by subscription, a baker that makes Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Shortbread cookies, a specialty egg roll company and several vendors that specialize in African foods and beverages.
“We are talking with a salsa company, a producer of infused clarified butter and several Keto meal prep companies,” Kim said. “We have also offered space to one of our former pastry chefs so that she could continue baking. Pretty exciting for just starting out.”