Hess Meats shifted its operational strategy when the pandemic hit

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This week MEAT+POULTRY recorded one of the stories from the August edition of the magazine. Listen to the Small Business Matters feature.

For most small meat processors who have ventured into off-premises catering, the COVID-19 pandemic hit like a ton of bricks. Cancellations were massive and unceasing across the industry.

For Hess Meats Inc., a 105-year-old country meat shop in Willow Street, Pa., catering had become the main sail that powered their small family business. Then in mid-March, the ship seemed to have fallen off the edge of the Earth when large gatherings were prohibited.

Third-generation operator Lloyd Hess bought out his brother Paul’s share of the business in 2016, and last year turned over 51% of the ownership to his own son, Eric.

“We were just getting into our booking peak for catering for weddings and I got 19 cancellations in one day,” Lloyd said. “We do about 75 weddings a year and many were able to be rescheduled for later in the year or even into next year, but it almost brought us to our knees.

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