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23 July 2021

Meet Sophie Storen, Cookes Food Co-Founder

As part of our We're In This Together interview series, we spoke to other Australian businesses on their journey through COVID-19 and here's what Sophie Storen, Cookes Food Co-Founder, has to say.

Sophie wears Harvest Bib Apron in Indigo Denim

Tell us about your business in a few sentences.

Cookes Food is a multi-faceted catering company that has a boutique approach working with high end clients including luxury brands, brides and corporates.

How are you and the business coping through the current crisis?

Well it certainly is a crisis. We lost 80% of our revenue within a few days. It was like falling through the floor, very surreal.

However, not one to dwell on the bad times we focused on what we could control and almost overnight pivoted the business and re-structured completely.

I am happy to say that we are doing ok… in survival mode and working ourselves silly to keep our team in jobs and the wheels turning.

How have you had to pivot your business?

We created a take home meal offering (for both delivery or pick-up) that stayed true to our ethos of crafting each menu; bespoke, real and delicious food that people can relate to. Our menus change weekly and include a ‘Cookes Favourites’ offering that our clients have always enjoyed and come back to time and time again.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received during this time?

Hmmm…that’s a tough one as I have received a lot of advice and now have a lot to give. I did however direct message a caterer in New York as I knew they were ahead of us. The information hit me like a freight train. This was 2 weeks prior to the Melbourne shut down, so we created a battle plan and that is what we are still using now.

My advice for what it’s worth, see if you can make money or at least break even to help your staff. Hygiene is critical and be sure anyone working must be 100% healthy. Focus on controlling expenses for example renegotiate rent if you can and eliminate unnecessary expenses to help preserve capital. Try and look towards the future, this will eventually pass.

How are you and your team staying connected & keeping up morale?

We are lucky as we get to be in the office so there are moments of normality – although senior members of my team are now delivery drivers and after 5 years, I’m a back in the kitchen! We all had to adapt, and our team are fully supportive of the new approach so we can keep our doors open.

Aside from financial resources, what is the one thing that will help you and your business survive?

I consume an enormous amount of resources and information…I read a lot and have been watching a lot of news and when I need a break from that I go to a series like Chefs Table for inspiration and that helps us to remember that people have been through way worse than this and we can learn from their experiences.

Do you have any advice for other businesses right now?

Don’t give up…keep going, change what you are doing and ask for help…I cried when Georgina Damm (founder of Damm Find Food) rang me when this first happened because I had been holding it in for so long and trying to smile through the pain…it’s important to share, reach out and talk to people. They might be able to help or have ideas that you may not have thought of yet because this whole situation is all consuming.

Have you found any positives through all this? Do you think there will be positive change after we’ve recovered?

Yes I do…I think people are being much kinder, showing acts of generosity and have become more patient. We have seen this through our clients ordering meals for front line workers at their expense, friends buying for virtual dinner parties and generous orders for hospitals and the general community.

From a business perspective, I am stronger and I think the business is stronger – I think we could keep doing take home meals once a week as a reminder of what we have been through – I have every intention of learning from this unbelievable experience.

Learn more about Cookes Food

Instagram: @cookes_food