The Dish: How to Choose a Wedding Caterer

November 30, 2011

Wedding Caterer - Zuppas
Chef Peter Kuenzi, Zuppas

A large portion of your wedding budget will go toward food and beverages, so choosing the right caterer for your big day is an important decision, whether you’re feeding 30 or 300. We talked to Chef Peter Kuenzi, owner of the hugely-popular Zuppas, a market, café and catering business in Neenah that’s been the go-to place for discerning diners for more than 15 years.

When planning an event, the first thing you should consider is what type of food you want to serve. It can range from salad, pasta or meat stations, to a buffet or sit down, just desserts, etc. Once you have an idea, you’ll want to set up a list of caterers to interview. A professional caterer should be willing to answer all your questions and meet in person for tastings.

“The first thing we do is have the bride look at our menu and then choose five or six items she’s interested in,” Kuenzi says. “Then we set up an appointment where she can taste those items to narrow down the choices and discuss pricing.”

What you choose also depends on the type and size of your event and your budget, Kuenzi says. You can choose anything from hot and cold hors d’oeuvres for a rehearsal dinner, or a full-service sit down extravaganza for the reception.

If you prefer plated meals, think about choosing two smaller entrees per plate, which is a great way to offer variety and keep things simple.”

Wedding Catering“With a buffet you can offer multiple choices, however, plated is a little more elegant,” he says. “And stations — with various meats, salads, veggies, pasta — are still quite popular. We’re happy to design a menu based on your preferences, and accommodate all kinds of dietary requirements including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. Every wedding seems to have three or four guests who have specific dietary needs.”

Zuppas, like many caterers, offers complete event coordination including wedding planning, china/glassware rentals, linen rentals and bar/food service. “We often work with a couple’s wedding planner, but sometimes we are the planner,” he adds. “It just depends on the bride’s desired level of involvement.”

Another thing to consider when discussing menu options at various venues is whether the site has the equipment needed for preparation and serving, or if the caterer will need to bring his or her own equipment. “Certain venues have ovens and warming carts for example, but we also need to make things work within the limitations of some in-home kitchens,” Kuenzi says. “I will tell people right away if I feel we cannot achieve something because we want to make it work and we want people to be happy.”

One thing that’s particularly trendy right now is the choice of unique venues, especially for showers and rehearsal dinners, Kuenzi says.

“For the wedding dinner you’re often limited to certain venues because of larger capacity needs, but for smaller events like rehearsal dinners, you can really take advantage of some of the unique places in your own hometown,” he said. For example, Zuppas recently catered dinners at The Museum For Kids and The History Museum At the Castle, both in Appleton. The use of backyards, farms and cottages for these more intimate events also remains popular.

Another trend Kuenzi has observed includes the use of candy tables at the reception. You can great creative with colors (think all pink offerings or M&Ms personalized with the couple’s initials) and the types of treats you offer, allowing guests to help themselves as they please.

Wedding Caterer“Late-night meals are also making a comeback,” he says. “We recently saw a bride who chose to order pizza from her favorite pizza joint, which they served to guests after dancing at the reception.”

The key to a good working relationship with a caterer is to have an open dialogue about what you want, and use the professional’s expertise to plan your perfect event.

“It’s your day so we want the food to be representative of your taste and style and also be something you and your guests will remember and think of positively for years to come,” Kuenzi says.

For more information, contact Zuppas at (920) 720-5045 or visit their website.

You can also visit our website for a complete list of Northeast Wisconsin Wedding Caterers.

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