Local caterers offer cost-conscious wedding alternativesWritten by Brian Bohnert | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In an economy inspiring many couples to choose staycations instead of vacations and cookouts instead of banquet halls, many brides and grooms are opting for casual, cost-conscious wedding catering alternatives.
Restaurants like City Barbeque, Smokey Bones and even Tony Packo’s have established successful reputations as wedding caterers. Instead of choosing between the standard chicken and steak, families now have the opportunity to offer guests backyard favorites like barbecue ribs, chili, cabbage rolls and gourmet hot dogs — often at a much cheaper cost than a traditional wedding caterer.
Known for its legendary hot dogs and personal endorsement from Toledo native Jamie Farr, Tony Packo’s has been a Northwest Ohio staple for 80 years, serving “authentic Hungarian food” since 1932.
Co-owner Tony Packo III said the catering business has grown rapidly the past few years. The restaurant currently caters about 15 events a month, ranging from corporate events and parties to rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions.
“We started the catering business many, many years ago,” Packo said. “We’ve been doing special events for many years, but over the last eight years or so, we’ve really made the catering business a priority and we’ve spent a lot of time developing this business.”
Now that catering is a more integrated part of the business model, Packo said his restaurant has a trained catering staff as well as an in-depth menu that can be altered to suit whatever clients want for their big day. The restaurant offers fan favorites like hot dogs and cabbage rolls as well as items not traditionally associated with the Tony Packo’s name.
“We cater much more than Tony Packo’s hot dogs,” he said. “We carry in-house favorites like chicken and dumplings, cabbage rolls or the chicken chili. We also carry some dishes not in the restaurant like fresh salad and fresh fruit for when the bride and groom want something fresh for a side.”
Tony Packo’s offers a buffet-style setup with a variety of packages that can be mixed and matched. Packo said the business’s reputation, combined with competitive prices and great customer feedback help make his restaurant a heavy-hitter amongst local catering companies.
“As I look at the landscape of the catering business in Toledo, an advantage we have is that we’re very unique and well-known with a name that people love and we’re extremely price competitive,” he said. “Also, all of our food is cooked fresh daily, which makes customers happy knowing they’re getting something fresh and new every day.”
Another restaurant has also garnered a reputation for full-scale catering services. Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill has been in the catering business for eight years, but is fairly new to the wedding scene. Carrie Gerke, general manager for Smokey Bones in Maumee, said the restaurant started catering weddings two months ago, mainly rehearsal dinners.
“We have a bulk menu with pulled pork and ribs and it is all buffet style so it can be done more efficiently,” Gerke said. “If you have a need to feed people, we’ve got you covered.”
Featuring everything on the traditional menu, Gerke said Smokey Bones caterers work with clients to provide food that is both tasty on the palate and easy on the wallet.
Cost ranges from $4.99 per person with pulled pork to a full rack of ribs at $16 to $17 per person, she said. Gerke said Smokey Bones doesn’t advertise its catering services, but the restaurant is always open to catering an event.
City Barbeque is another local barbecue restaurant providing brides and grooms the option of a backyard-style wedding. The business has offered full-service catering options for five years, featuring a wide array of dining options and meal packages.
Karen Bryant, co-owner and catering manager for City Barbeque, said the restaurant caters two to three events per week, mainly rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions. City Barbeque offers a full menu of homemade, traditional barbeque dishes, including barbecue ribs, pulled pork, barbecue chicken and many sides.
City Barbeque offers the option of a live grill or a buffet-style setting. The meat grilled on-site runs from $16.95 to $19.95 per person and consists of a mix of meats, sides, cornbread and a dessert. The traditional, more popular buffet option offers a choice of meats, sides and a dessert made fresh in-house and delivered to the event, Bryant said.
“We have high-quality barbecue at a very reasonable price,” Bryant said. “People can afford it and it’s something they’re going to remember. We make everything homemade and we have enough food that we always have enough for seconds.”
Just weeks before her July 7 wedding, Cherie Jarvis lost her caterer after an ill-timed miscommunication. Wanting to complement her laid-back backyard nuptials with family barbecue, she and her fiancé made the call to City Barbeque.
“I wanted to stick with the backyard barbecue theme so I immediately started thinking about how much I love City-Q,” Jarvis said. “They have good ribs, pulled pork, chicken. I’ve never had anything there I didn’t like.”
Jarvis said cost was not her main motivation for thinking of an alternative catering option.
“I don’t like the whole stuffy wedding where everybody has individual salt and pepper shakers. We just wanted something that was going to be just a party with everybody getting together because we were getting married,” she said. “Everybody is getting together for the bride and groom and celebrating a marriage.”