INDIANAPOLIS — Three Indianapolis catering companies have quickly transitioned from serving meals for dozens of people at one time, to family-sized meals ready for pickup.
One of the companies includes the popular Greek restaurant-turned-caterer — Santorini Greek Kitchen.
The owners of Santorini, Jeanette and Taki Sawi, are also the owners of Hoaglin Catering and MBP Distinctive Catering. All three operate out of the Biltwell Event Center, which the Sawi's also own.
When Jeanette and Taki Sawi announced the closure of their 18-year-old restaurant in 2018, the response from their loyal following base was remarkable.
"(Santorini) was something more than just a restaurant; it was something more than just a business," Jeanette said.
The Sawi's closed Santorini two years ago to pursue a more feasible business as they grew into retirement and opened the Biltwell Event Center on the near west side of Indianapolis.
"We couldn't do both. You can't give 100% to two different things," Jeanette said. "Biltwell was more of our retirement plan, or 'getting older and can't do restaurants anymore' plan."
As the Biltwell grew, the Sawi's acquired Hoaglin Catering and MBP Distinctive Catering. And soon after, the couple decided it was time to reopen Santorini's as a catering kitchen.
Jeanette said it was not necessarily about business. Even now. It's about the people behind the scenes and the people who continue to follow them.
"We had a fire back in 2010 back at our restaurant, and we had customers and friends that had brought us meals, casseroles, and food from Shapiro's... I mean, I think only in Indiana can people do that! I mean they saw behind the business, and it's all people — it's people helping each other and getting it done," Jeanette said.
Since opening Santorini in 2001 in Fountain Square, the Sawi's have grown to not only be well reputable entrepreneurs but a Hoosier couple who believes in good food.
"It was always more than a business," Jeannette said.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted almost every industry in the world. That includes events that were set to happen at the Biltwell, which the Sawi's catering companies were going to serve.
Although Jeanette is currently in Durham, North Carolina, while aiding her ailing sister for the foreseeable future, she could see that they had to do something for their beloved Indianapolis community.
The Sawi's decided to reopen Santorini's as more of a restaurant-style service, rather than only catering for a minimum of 50 people. Their cooks are back in the kitchen, cooking the Greek meals their loyal fan base has missed for two years.
"Buffets are one of the things that Taki loves, but right now, during the COVID-19 era, we decided to do meals for a much smaller amount of people," Jeanette said.
All three of the Sawi's catering companies — Santorini, Hoaglin and MBP — are now offering single-serve meals for pickup. MBP does more comfort food, Hoaglin does various styles of food, and, of course, Santorini is Greek.
They're offering orders that can serve two to four people or even six to eight. All meals are chef-prepared.
View this post on Instagram
Do you want to help someone experiencing food insecurity? We know just how…sponsor a home cooked hot meal for a deserving family! Hoaglin Fine Catering is partnering with some local non-profit organizations to identify families in need of a good meal. It’s very simple, call 317-924-3389 and tell us you want to purchase a homemade meal for a worthy family and we will do the rest! The sponsored meal will serve 4-6 people for $45.00 (plus tax). It includes a salad, entrée, 1 side and dessert. Even during this time of “Social Distancing”, giving to others increases our “Social Connectedness”. Please sponsor a meal for a family in need today!
"We've been very excited with the response," Jeanette said.
The beauty of technology is accurately portrayed right now, as the Sawi's had to work on improvising operations. Although they have a management team for Hoaglin and MBP, they had to cover Santorini. This means Jeanette is the one taking to-go orders over the phone while she is physically in Durham, North Carolina, while she looks over her family.
"I mean I had a friend call me from California, in Durham, to find out if it's true that we're doing food in Indianapolis — I mean it can be done. Whatever it is, it can be done. People can figure it out."
All three kitchens are offering $45 meal deals right now, which serves four people.
As for if the Santorini Greek Kitchen restaurant will officially open back up once COVID-19 is (hopefully) a thing of the past — Jeanette hopes she and Taki can. It all depends on keeping up with their exceptional standard of serving only the best.
"We do big buffets about six times a year. And we always have a great turnout for those. But again, not everybody can come to them," Jeanette said. "So, I would like to be able to offer our food ... because its a legacy. As long as we can continue to do it, and do it well, I would love to offer it."
"We continually ask ourselves that," Jeannette said. "When all the dust has settled, who knows what will happen... who knows what the state of restaurants will be in."