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‘Closing Isn’t Even an Option’: With No Events, Caterers Rush to Adjust

  • August 09, 2020

Mr. Cingari said he had received money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program to cover around 80 of his employees.

As companies shut down and people began staying at home in mid-March, Mr. Cingari shifted his business. He had noticed how people were raising money on social media to provide meals to hospitals and emergency medical workers, so he did the same. The money donated through the social media outreach paid for the cost of food and supplies.

“Since we had this large commissary kitchen, we could do huge numbers of meals,” he said, though he made no profit from it. “So we started making a few thousand meals a day for several weeks to feed hospital workers and others.”

That effort began to dry up as coronavirus cases declined in Connecticut in the late spring.

So Mr. Cingari shifted again, this time providing groceries, hard-to-find household items like toilet paper and Clorox disinfecting wipes, and take-home meals for $50 that could feed a family of four. In early June he would sell close to 60 meals on a Saturday night, he said.

“It didn’t even come close to what we were making before,” he said, “but it was something.”

But that business petered out when the state allowed outdoor dining. On the final weekend of that iteration of his business, Mr. Cingari sold five take-home meals.

So in early July, he shifted again. Through one of the buildings in a corporate office park where he manages the cafeteria, he had access to an indoor dining area and outdoor patio space overlooking the harbor in Stamford. He had used the space in the past for weekend events like birthday parties and bar mitzvahs.

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