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Call on a caterer to help ease the stress of planning 

Timber Rattlers

As warmer spring temperatures and longer days spur us to come out from winter hibernation, our thoughts quickly turn to the summer months ahead and a calendar full of social obligations. Whether graduation parties, summer holiday shindigs or even casual corporate gatherings are marking your time ahead, all of that summer fun can quickly become a lot of overwhelming work for any party host.

Though we are inundated by television shows and social media influencers who like to convince us we can do it all on our own, there is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring outside help to streamline the planning process. Contacting a caterer to handle the food for your next get-together is a great way to keep stress levels low. Kim Chonos, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ director of catering and events, says catering allows the party host to be more present for their guests.

“It does help to delegate some of those tasks to other people, so that you can focus on what really matters the day of — like those personal connections, being able to socialize with people you haven’t seen in a while, or just being able to enjoy yourself at a party.”

Delegation details: how caterers help

The Grand Meridian

Catering – whether at home, off-site or within a venue — is a service to strongly consider to ease the burden of party planning. From a small Father’s Day dinner in your backyard, to the more elaborate events with several courses, like weddings or anniversary parties, all menus take coordination to make the experience top-notch for your guests.

“Everyone wants to plan the perfect party and wow their guests with food and drink,” says Sue Lamers, event coordinator at The Grand Meridian in Appleton. “The trendy seven-course meals are wonderful, but labor intensive. It only makes sense to hire a knowledgeable, capable caterer to take the stress and work out of your occasion. It is always important to find a caterer that is well-versed in course pairings and flexible enough to customize a menu to your wishes. At the same time, you want a caterer who can be honest enough to tell you when your chosen selections may not pair well with one another, and then be able to suggest a few more appropriate options.”

At a time when food allergies, sensitivities and dietary requests have risen within our awareness, a caterer can also help in navigating Aunt Karen’s nut allergy, while respecting your cousin Morgan’s vegan diet. Steve Lonsway, president of Stone Arch Brew Pub & Stone Arch at Riverview Gardens in Appleton, says that a detailed checklist between the caterer/event site and the party host is important when communicating these potential complications for any food served.

“Being in the restaurant industry for over 15 years, we’ve always gotten a lot of different requests and limitations for people, so we took that knowledge and actually have grown it,” he adds. “We now offer more vegan and vegetarian dishes than a lot of places and we kind of hang our hat on that.”

Call ASAP to lock down your date

Stone Arch

Once you’ve made the decision to host a party or gathering and have it catered, your first call should be to the caterer and/or event site. You need to decipher quickly who will accommodate your number of guests, your location, your menu style and/or whether a caterer within a venue has availability. 

“Timing is everything they say,” states Lamers. “If you are hiring a reputable caterer in your area, be aware that they book up quickly. Small business caterers may have limits on how many caters they accept in one day or evening. Six-months planning notice is not unreasonable. Currently in our Fox River Valley, venues are becoming increasingly scarce. Those venues remaining are booked a year and maybe two years in advance.”

The caveat to the “plan in advance” mantra is when you need a caterer for a post-funeral meal or celebration of life gathering. Lonsway says his staff are able to pull those together with very short notice for obvious reasons. And as Chonos adds, menus are typically more simplified for the family and friends planning the post-funeral meals.

“It’s all inclusive — you pick a menu and it’s done, because when you’re in the situation of a loved one passing away, and a funeral being less than a week away, you already have so many decisions to make. Your food should be the last thing to have to stress out about,” she furthers.

Ensure your event’s success: communicate

Timber Rattlers

Once you find your established caterer, Chonos, Lonsway and Lamers all agree that communication is the most important component to a successful caterer-host relationship for the duration of the planning and the day of the event.

“Even though it may seem very trivial to explain to me the background of your event or to explain why you’re throwing the party, it does help me understand, so I know if I should work with you on a more custom menu, or if you’re really just looking for something standard, or if you’re looking to entertain high-end clients,” explains Chonos. 

Lamers tips that an established budget should also be communicated clearly to the caterer.

“Make your budgetary needs clear to the caterer and request a proposal to ensure that your needs are being met,” she explains. “You don’t want any surprises and neither does your caterer.”

And finally, once the event’s parameters are established and the day arrives, remember to enjoy yourself — the event is in capable hands, which will allow you to stay in the moment with your guests, says Lonsway.

“Our staff is trained to do the event planning; we stay up on trends and we take the hard work out of it, so the people who want to host have more time to spend with their guests,” he says. “Relax and let the professionals do the work!”

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