Business Spotlight – Skyline Catering
We thought that the month of December would be a great time to talk catering, since it’s that time of year when many holiday events occur. We really enjoyed our conversation with Ernie Wunsch, the owner of Skyline Catering, who gave us insight into his catering business.
How did you get started in the catering business Ernie?
Really, if I think about it, the catering business chose me. I wanted to get a job right away out of school and found a job at age 17 working for Harold’s Restaurant at the Red Carpet Hotel that used to be right across from the airport. That’s where I got my first “taste” of the business. Those were the best chefs and servers I ever met in my life. I started as a waiter and table-side cook. I learned so much from that experience, and I gained a love for fine dining at Harold’s. After working there for a while, I was offered the position of assistant manager.
A few years later, I was offered a job in Monroe, Wisconsin managing a country club. I came back to the hotel business a few years later, managing various food and beverage departments around the United States for John Q. Hammons. Along this journey, I met my wife, and since we were both from Milwaukee, decided to come back to the area. Instead of continuing in the food and beverage industry, I decided to go back to school at age 34. I was three credits away from obtaining my diploma, when my wife called unexpectedly and asked if I could help with a corporate event that her company was having. Their caterer had backed out. I took that on and catered their event by preparing all the grilled food at our home and taking it to the event and so, I was suddenly once again back in the business of food. I had all the knowledge from all those years and knew in my heart that I wanted to do this, but I didn’t want to work all those hours any longer, which always included holidays and weekends. What could I do? Work for the corporate world? Yes! I slowly got in contact with people at many of the large corporations and businesses in Downtown Milwaukee.
How did you convince these downtown businesses that they should be doing business with you?
Well, there weren’t a lot of corporate caterers in Milwaukee back in 1996. I talked with the people who made the catering decisions at the downtown corporations and found out what THEY wanted from a good caterer. I found out that yes, they wanted good food served, and a caterer and staff without attitudes, but the number one thing on their list that was a must was, they wanted the meal to be delivered on time. We started with two downtown clients, and it blossomed from there.
How did you decide on the name of your business?
Our name actually comes from the beautiful skyline of Downtown Milwaukee. I was driving across the Hoan Bridge on my way to register my business at the court house and noticed the downtown Milwaukee skyline from that vantage point and that’s when I decided on the name Skyline. You know, my main business for catering still comes from the Downtown Milwaukee area. Our original focus was to give Milwaukee’s corporate world an extremely professional experience, but we ended up becoming much more.
How did you happen to choose the airport region for your business location?
This was the best place to establish my business because it has such easy access to my main clientele in Downtown Milwaukee via I-794, and I can get to other areas in Milwaukee and the surrounding area easily via the interstate from here.
I noticed that catering doesn’t seem to be your only specialty. What else do you offer in this building?
We also have the Skyline Deli and Express Catering.
We have a large following of people in this area, including people from the larger manufacturing facilities. We offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, fresh take-out meals, soup and sandwiches.
We also offer what we call, “Dining on the Go.” We strongly believe that dining on the go doesn’t mean you have to eat fast food or sacrifice taste for convenience. We offer fresh, homemade hot dinners that you can just take home and eat. Most dinners are priced around $7.95 per person. We offer a variety of different options every day and have daily specials. The recipes we use have been inspired by moms, dads, chefs, staff members and friends in our lives.
We make all our sandwiches to order, and we do it fast. We have over 20 hot and cold sandwiches every day. We also have hot soups daily and you can take home soups from our deli case and freezer. On Friday we offer our popular fried cod loin sandwich. Executive Box lunches are very popular and are only $7.95, which includes a large sandwich, chips and cookie.
What else can you tell us about your business?
The Deli portion of the business accounts for just over 10%, but 9 out of 10 people who call want our catering. Our catering can be picked up or we deliver. We have 6 delivery vehicles that go out to Southeastern Wisconsin every day.
If you call us for catering, you will inevitably speak with either me, the owner or Robin Frederick the COO of the company. Your order will be handled by us, and we pride ourselves on great customer service.
We handle many functions and events and can take orders just a few people for a lunch event, to 3,000 for a catered dinner. We have served over 400 different companies this year alone, and we are proud to say that we retain almost 100% of our clients.
We have about 48 employees and have on-call people for larger events.
We do a lot of nonprofit events, including fundraising events and events for city organizations. Some of our most prominent catering venues are the Milwaukee County Zoo – Conference Center, South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, The Pritzlaff Building and the Grace Center.
When you are going out a distance to an event, how do you keep your food hot and fresh for that event?
We make sure everything is delivered on time. For a very large event, we have shifts where the crew is sent for specific tasks, such as set up and delivery of china, glassware and linens. The last thing to be sent is the food. Everything is prepped prior to the event and set in hot boxes at a staging area. We can also cook food onsite.
What is a typical day like for your business?
We average about 15 events (breakfast, lunch, cocktail or dinners) which could be for as many as 800 people per day, along with our walk-in and call-in orders.
How do you know how much food to order?
We go over all the events for a specific week and decide what is needed to purchase for these events. Sometimes we do get last minute events and, in the event that happens, we are fully prepared. We have a large facility and have space for storage of dry goods, as well as refrigerators and 3 large freezers for storage.
How do you stand out from other caterers?
That’s easy! While I believe that many caterers in the area do a good job and of course, there are always growing pains and challenges, but the way that we stand out is because of the philosophy that I’ve grown up with my entire life and that is – The customer and client is always first! The client service must be top notch. We have a vested interest in the success of this business. We listen to what the client has to say and stay within a budget. We believe that we go above and beyond to make an event as seamless as possible. Every time someone calls to receive information on catering an event, they will either get the owner or the COO answering their questions every single time. When you work with us and our staff, you’re going to be well taken care of. We have a 100% guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied, we will make it right. We are all passionate about what we do here and have been for over 20 years. We don’t take anything for granted, and we continue to raise the bar with our creativity and personal attention.
Skyline Catering has built its reputation on a strong commitment to provide outstanding and freshly prepared food with personal and timely service.
Skyline Catering & Deli – an Airport Gateway Business Assn. Member
Located at 5601 S. Pennsylvania Ave, Cudahy, WI 53110
Catering Phone number – 414-294-4808
Deli – 414-294-4816
The Deli is Open Monday through Friday – 5:30 am – 4:30 pm
For Catering – Call anytime
Offering Corporate Catering services, bartending services, weddings, a deli and express meal service.
SPECIAL ORDERS are always welcome. Just call ahead!