Founder and co-owner of Red Tea Room Donna Wong puts the finishing touch on their most popular dessert— Lemon Meringue Glacée. Photo by Haley Ausbun.

Founder and co-owner of Red Tea Room Donna Wong puts the finishing touch on their most popular dessert— Lemon Meringue Glacée. Photo by Haley Ausbun.

Renton catering company pivots during pandemic

The Red Tea Room Catering’s move to takeout helped keep the company going— and get closer to neighbors

Event companies have struggled under the shutdown during the Coronavirus pandemic. But one local catering and commercial kitchen company, The Red Tea Room, pivoted in response, and as a result got closer to the community. While events were cancelled under the stay-at-home order, it offered individual to-go meal orders and meal donations for those in need.

The idea of offering a takeout meal for individuals and families was something The Red Tea Room had sort of considered before. But once the pandemic shut down the events that they catered, thousands of dollars of booked jobs vanished, they had to move quickly to protect their staff and business.

The offerings from The Red Tea Room are unlike a restaurant, the menu is limited but the customization and personal care for those with allergies, vegan or gluten-free, is unlike other types of pick-up meals. Some in the community refer to it as “fine dining takeout.” At the height of the shutdown, several times a week owner Donna Wong and staff prepared boxes of featured, ready-to-go meals, which people could then call in to order, and pick up outside the kitchen.

Before the pandemic, The Red Tea Room had seen steady growth year after year in the catering sector.

Founder and Owner Donna Wong grew up in Renton— her father owned Happy Valley Restaurant so she grew up around the food industry. Red Tea Room began in 2006 as a dessert business, and by 2010 it became a catering service for corporate events, weddings and other special occasions.

With a background in apparel design, Donna Wong is passionate about the presentation of the food they offer.

“Oftentimes food out there looks really good but isn’t, or is really good but the presentation isn’t there,” Donna Wong said. “I think our thing is that our stuff tastes great and looks great. We know colors and textures, and you can see that in our food.”

Negative experiences at a shared kitchen The Red Tea Room rented in Tukwila led to the company leasing its own kitchen space on Harrington Avenue Northeast in the Sunset area. They built the commercial kitchen from scratch, in a corner portion of a building that used to be a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Being a commercial kitchen, the pick-up meal program was the first time Red Tea Room has had to market itself— and its location— to the general community.

”We’ve had to let people know where we’re at, they expect a big sign, but we don’t have that because we aren’t retail,” Steve Wong, Donna’s husband and Red Tea Room co-owner, said. “As far as catering is concerned, people know who we are, but the community was seeing our marketing for pick-up meals and saying ‘Where are these guys?’”

They also share the kitchen with others, like local food trucks, and have a tight-knit, trusted group of small businesses working respectfully together in the space. They’ve also worked with those businesses during the pandemic to make sure they can still afford to rent out space in the kitchen.

“Our ability to stay open and stay relevant is because we’re small, haven’t overextended ourselves, and been empathetic to the small business community,” Steve Wong said. “We want to support what other small businesses have been going through.”

As they were juggling finances, they also were donating meals to those in need, including as many as 400 meals a week to the South King Food Fighters, offering food delivery to people feeling hardships during the pandemic, and boxed lunches for Valley Medical Center and other healthcare workers on the frontlines. When they had extra meals from their to-go meal order program, they would think of someone they knew to deliver the food to, usually someone in a high-risk population that has had to stay home.

They’ve prepared well over 2,000 donated meals in the last two months, Steve Wong said. It’s a way to keep the business moving but also support community.

The Red Tea Room even got to know their neighbors better— an apartment complex right next door has used their meals for different giveaways and individual Mother’s Day offerings.

Now that things are slowly reopening in King County, The Red Tea Room is able to move back to more catering, and will be scaling back the pick-up meals to a few days of the month. But getting to meet more of the Renton community, including neighbors in the Sunset area, is something that will stay with the catering company long after the world returns to some form of “normal.”

“Our catering business hasn’t specifically been Renton-only, it’s covered the greater Seattle area. But what we’ve been doing lately has been getting to know a lot of people in Renton,” Steve Wong said.

More information is available at

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Life

Founder and co-owner of Red Tea Room Donna Wong puts the finishing touch on their most popular dessert— Lemon Meringue Glacée. Photo by Haley Ausbun.
Renton catering company pivots during pandemic

The Red Tea Room Catering’s move to takeout helped keep the company going— and get closer to neighbors

Courtesy of Lindbergh High School.
Congrats to the Class of 2020— virtual ceremony June 15

Students were also celebrated using walk-up ceremonies at Renton High School, Lindbergh High School, Hazen High School and Talley Sr. High School

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                A woman checks out jars of honey and jam at the Renton Farmers Market in 2018. This year social distancing guidelines are changing the look of the market.
Renton Farmers Market is back June 9

The 19th season of the market will look a little different due to social distancing guidelines

Relay for Life of South King County moves online

American Cancer Society donations to be taken during May 30 virtual gathering

Auburn Symphony Orchestra announces 2020-21 season

Begins with Summer Series scheduled to start June 21

Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses

The initiative provides hearty lunches to first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.

‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident Evelyn Allcorn shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19 after he tested positive on March 28.

Auburn dance studio finds creative solutions to keep going during COVID-19

Pacific Ballroom Dance moves to online classes; group returned home early from national competition

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                Boon Boona Coffee in downtown Renton is well-known for its large cafe space, but owner Efrem Fesaha has found a creative way to keep people to to-go orders only, putting a table right at the door. The order from the Governor hasn’t been easy for small businesses in Renton, and many are just taking it day to day and hoping for financial relief from local and regional leaders.
Renton communities reach out during shut-in

Local organizations, volunteers and businesses try to make the best of quarantine

Renton and AARP team up for seniors

New fitness park to funded and will open late in the summer

Schindler’s legacy bounces along at Baden

CEO of Baden Sports died unexpectedly in February