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From brink of closure to thriving: Centerville catering business adapts to pandemic uncertainty

CENTERVILLE — The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses in the Miami Valley and across the country to close their doors for good for a variety of reasons.

Others that survived the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic had to find new ways to conduct business. In the case of Matthew Hayden’s catering business, the sudden loss of large gatherings at the pandemic’s onset had his business on the brink of closure.

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“To watch it go from being busy twice a week doing multiple jobs every month to basically zero, no weddings, no large fundraisers. It was shocking,” Hayden told News Center 7′s James Rider.

Hayden’s catering business had been doing well for years, but the loss of business provided by gatherings put the business in troubling waters. While initially at a loss of what to do next, Hayden had an idea that stemmed from something he helped a friend with before the pandemic.

“I faced the very real possibility that after more than 20 years in business, I may have to pack up and call it quits. I decided this was an opportune time to put my food expertise to use and reinvent my business.”

“I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me initially, I helped develop all these Ketogenic products and opened another store, we know exactly what needs to be done, lets open the second PangeaKeto store,” he said.

In November, the catering business transitioned officially to PangeaKeto Dayton, a grab-and-go style restaurant catering to people on the ketogenic diet by offering only low-carb, no-sugar, and gluten-free foods. The store now tabs itself as the Dayton region’s only full-service ketogenic bakery, grocer, and eatery.

“Up to now, people living a keto lifestyle might have to travel to several different stores to find what they are looking for – researching food labels, comparing carb and sugar levels, and identifying the meals or ingredients that meet their dietary needs. We’ve made things so much simpler by offering only the foods and supplies that satisfy the keto lifestyle,” Hayden said in a media release provided to News Center 7.

Without the changes in his business model, Hayden said there would have been no way the business would have survived.

“No, absolutely not. We have a certain amount of overhead we need to cover and since COVID we’ve probably received two calls asking us to cater an event whereas we were normally fielding 2 dozen or 30 calls a week. The business just wasn’t there,” Hayden said.

In the months after the change, Hayden said his business is now thriving and customers are happy.

“They simply say we can’t believe you exist. I’m not overstating it that some people have almost gotten teary eyed because there’s this huge community of low carb Keto people out there and no one is servicing them,” he said.

Hayden said he continues to evolve the menu to provide more options for people on low-carb or keto diets because a lack of variety is one major way people fall-off their diets.

“For any lifestyle, for any diet to be successful the food has to be great or its not sustainable.”

While the grab-and-go business will stay, Hayden said PangeaKeto is looking to expand hot food options for their customers in the near future.