Daniel Israel, owner of Deluxe Catering and Deluxe Events in Philadelphia, wants deluxe, catered events to come back in full.
Israel has a major business interest in making people feel comfortable at big gatherings again. But he also feels sympathy for customers who end up in a situation he keeps seeing during the omicron stage of the pandemic.
“We’re getting events where only half the people are saying yes due to COVID,” Israel said.
To raise that number from 50% to 100, the owner is adding a new feature to his parties: rapid COVID tests.
Starting on Jan. 30, Deluxe Catering and Deluxe Events will offer tests to all guests who want them. An individual who wants a test will walk into the lobby, take one, wait 15 minutes and then, if negative, continue walking into the party.
Then for the rest of the night, instead of fearing COVID, they can just take their mask off, dance and have fun.
“People can feel confident going to an event,” he said.
Israel hosts affairs throughout the Philadelphia area. Business has been good lately, but not as good as it could have been.
Customers are still hesitant about holding big events. Often, even when they are willing to have a lot of people, it’s the people who are hesitant.
If only half of the invited guests come, it creates an issue for the caterer and planner that accounted for the full party. It also creates an awful feeling for guests of honor like the bride and groom, Israel said.
So rapid testing, according to Israel, “is helpful for everybody.”
Israel will administer his first set of tests in a little over a week at a birthday party at Lower Merion Synagogue. After that, he will offer them at other birthday parties, weddings and any type of big event he plans.
Hosts can decide whether they want the planner to do tests and whether they want everyone to take them. Even if they do not require tests, Israel plans on making them available to anyone who might want one.
If a bride, groom or other host wants everyone to take tests, they can say so on their invitations so people are more inclined to say yes. All rapids will be “free for the consumer,” he said.
Israel is not sure how long he will do this.
“COVID will tell us,” he said. “We’ll do it as long as necessary.”
But he is sure that he has the supplier: Pennpac Care, a new company in Bala Cynwyd. Pennpac offers PCR and rapid tests with proof of health insurance, passport or Social Security number, according to Hallie Schapiro, its director.
Pennpac unveiled its Facebook page this month and friended Israel, the caterer in the Main Line community. Shortly thereafter, Israel messaged the company saying he had to figure out testing for his events.
Then, for a Jan. 15 gathering Israel planned, guests had to get tested the morning before. The owner then decided to take that idea a step further.
“I was like, ‘We should be offering this for all events,’” Israel said.
Israel already requires masks and vaccinations for his employees who work events. But now he will require them to take these tests, too.
He does not expect pushback from guests.
“At least not in the Jewish world,” Israel said.
He also says venues are open to the idea because they like to prioritize safety, too.
“But usually we supply most of the staff,” he said. “So it’s not that big of a concern.”
A bigger concern is that, almost two years into COVID, we’re still not out of it.
“We want people to come back out and socialize again,” Israel concluded. “We can’t force everybody to stay in for too long.”