My name is Lisa Ware, and I am the Director of Business Development & Special Projects at Catering by Michaels. Sharing our journey through COVID-19 certainly falls under one of those “special projects.”  Let me first say these are blog posts we never wanted to write, but we feel it is necessary, helpful, and therapeutic to share our journey!

It’s our hope that what we’ve learned—and continue to learn—can help someone else. Perhaps it’s comforting to hear we are going through the same things you or your company are experiencing. At the very least–as a member of CBM’s Crisis Management Team–it is therapeutic to write these blog posts and share our journey!

A Personal Beginning

For my husband and me, our journey with COVID-19 started in January.  (Incidentally, he also works at Catering by Michaels as the Director of Operations, and that is an entirely different kind of blog post on how we have mastered working together!) About two days before we left for a dream vacation in Asia, we heard people talking about this “beer virus” and asking us if our trip was still on.

Honestly, I don’t tend to watch the news and had to google what they meant.  At that point, the COVID-19 crisis was just starting in Asia. We weren’t headed to mainland China, so we did not think that much of it.

My husband is a little OCD about sanitation on an average day, so packing hand sanitizer and wipes to wipe down every airplane seat is nothing new to us. I mean, we do this for every flight, ever. He packed, in what we were thinking was an over-abundance of caution, N-95 masks (which I didn’t even know we had) in our suitcase. I told you he was a little OCD about sanitation!

We headed out on our amazing vacation to Asia, including an itinerary of Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.  I don’t think we wore masks on the flight there (but he had two N-95 masks at the ready for when we landed), and I’m sure I rolled my eyes because COVID-19 was not real to me yet.

COVID masks and sanitizer station

Our first night in Hong Kong, we explored the escalator area. If you have ever been to Hong Kong, you know what I mean!  We wore our N-95 masks (which are awful to wear if I’m honest), and we were in a party area. Some rowdy—and likely intoxicated—people even heckled us for wearing masks. I probably asked to take them off, and Jeff gave that a hard no. On the first night in Hong Kong, I would estimate 20% of people were wearing masks. Three days later, 95% or more wore masks.

Asian Sanitation

The sanitation measures in these Asian countries were remarkable. Everywhere we went, nearly every surface was wiped down on the hour by efficient cleaning teams. Every hour, they placed sticky plastic over all the buttons people would touch. It was crazy to see, yet so appreciated.

COVID temperature taking and Singapore news about masks

They took our temperature at every airport, every hotel, every restaurant, and almost every place we visited. Hand sanitizer was everywhere. Can you imagine how much planning and support that took to implement in a matter of days? Yet every country was the same. Despite COVID-19 and wearing all those dreaded masks, we had the most fantastic vacation, and we wish we lived in Singapore: it was that amazing.

Before and After “Social Distancing”

When we entered the United States, no one took our temperature. No one asked where we had traveled. We were in and out of customs in less than two minutes (thank you, global entry). At that point, we thought our journey with COVID-19 was complete.

Fast forward, and here we are in week six of unprecedented destruction of this industry we all love. It is surreal to have lived COVID-19 for two weeks in Asia and now living it again at home with everything on the line. This situation is hard—like really, really hard—but I genuinely believe our industry will not only survive but emerge even more robust.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of our journey through COVID-19, featuring a trip to Las Vegas to attend and speak at Catersource!