The Enthusiasts Guide from “Yes” to “I Do”

Host Leah Longbrake is pulling back the veil to bring you honest advice and creative ideas from those in the wedding industry. From the Engagement to the Honeymoon, get all the details you need from wedding and event experts on how to make it your best day ever!

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Let's Eat! Catering Advice from Tricia Coyne of Coyne Catering

Let's Eat! Catering Advice from Tricia Coyne of Coyne Catering

Nom nom nom! It’s time to start thinking about your reception menu, but where do you start? Tricia Coyne, owner of Coyne Catering, shares her sage advice on all the details you need to consider! We discuss budgets, DIY Venues vs. Full Service (like hotel ballrooms), and trends for 2021/2022. She also tells us how Covid protocols have impacted the industry, and why she likes some of the changes. Oh, and her dogs make a special appearance on the show!

Get to know Tricia and Coyne Catering:

Coyne Catering was started in 1984 by my brave, ferocious mom, Kathleen Coyne. She had been a banquet manager for 15 years, and had a special knack for dealing with couples, creating gorgeous receptions and managing chaos. She took a leap of faith, and Coyne Catering was founded! My father, Thomas and my brother John & I joined her team!

We keep my parents legacy going to this day. Coyne Catering is still family owned & operated, and all of our staff is related to someone! We are known for our personalized service, award winning food and affordable pricing. We still manage chaos effectively too!

The most important lesson I learned from my mom was to listen to our couples. I pride myself and my fabulous staff on accommodating our guests needs, anticipating their wants, and providing stress free receptions, through all stages of the planning process!

Follow Coyne Catering on Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter and Facebook!



This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Executive Producers David Moss, Gerardo Orlando, Production Director Brigid Coyne and Audio Engineer Eric Koltnow

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Leah Longbrake:
I'm so excited to talk all things catering with you today.

Tricia Coyne:
That's great, thank you for having me.

Leah Longbrake:
So you've been in the business now for 30, 30 plus years with Coyne Catering?

Tricia Coyne:
34 years, yep. It's my family business, yeah.

Leah Longbrake:
That's incredible. So tell us a little bit about Coyne Catering for those that aren't familiar.

Tricia Coyne:
So Coyne Catering is a family owned and operated catering business. We are the exclusive caterers at St. Demetrios Cultural Hall in Rocky River. We are also preferred caterers at several other venues in the Cleveland area. We go and cater anywhere but we do do the most of our work at St. Demetrios.

Leah Longbrake:
And like I mentioned in the open, you are a multi-award winner with Wedding Wires, Couple's Choice, and The Knot with their best of weddings.

Tricia Coyne:
Yeah we are. We've been very lucky. I have the best couples and I have the best staff support, which is exactly why we have been able to win those awards.

Leah Longbrake:
A lot of couples when they're looking to start planning the reception, the food in particular, they may have different ideas in their head of what they want to do based off of a theme, or their cultural heritage, off of the time of year, what's available. But correct me if I'm wrong, it really comes down to also the venue. Because if you do a St. Demetrios, sort of a ballroom at a hotel versus a DIY art gallery you're going to have different offerings.

Tricia Coyne:
Absolutely. And I think most caterers are like me, they have a basic menu and then they have suggestions, ideas, different things that work. And they also see what the couple wants, what's their vibe. And if you're a good caterer you can accommodate them for their different things, and that's how you survive in this business.

Leah Longbrake:
So couples don't have to necessarily stick to the menu that they're presented with just off the rip.

Tricia Coyne:
They do not, they do not. And the biggest thing that's been lately, of course is a gluten-free, vegan, on top of vegetarian. But usually what people do choose is mostly from our menu. We do have a really big selection. And what we do at Coyne Catering is we have them come in and taste test frequently. They can come when we have an event and go to our tasting room and have what are couples having that night just to get them involved, just get them started in the process. And if they want something special we can prepare that and bring them back again to do that.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah, that's a great way to start figuring out what direction you would like to go. And is that normally included with the venue fee or with the catering fee?

Tricia Coyne:
For us at Coyne Catering we don't charge extra for it. And my thought on that is if they don't like the food there's no sense going any further, because they're not going to work with me and I'm not going to want to work with them. So that's the first thing I always suggest doing. Usually they come and check out the venue and make sure we're in their budget, make sure they love the hall, and then let's get in and start tasting because that's the most important thing.

Leah Longbrake:
And with that key to anything with weddings, and we say this in every episode, no matter what topic we're talking about is the budget. So what's a good, healthy budget to start considering? I mean it's going to vary based off of how much food do you want to do, how many people you're serving, et cetera, but what's kind of like a rough number to start working with or you should be considering?

Tricia Coyne:
It absolutely depends on your venue. There are some venues these days that have a separate price, things are much different now than when we started out. A separate price for the venue, and then you have to bring everything, your catering, your linen, your bartenders, your pop, your wash, all of your decor. So that's one budget. And then there's other venues like St. Demetrios that are all inclusive, and that's obviously going to be a different budget. And I'd say anywhere from $55 a person on up.

Tricia Coyne:
It depends, are you going to do your own beer, wine and liquor? Are you getting it from the venue? That's always going to cost a little bit more to get their liquor. So it's the sky is the limit sometimes with your budget. And it just depends on what you want and what your vibe is. And some people would rather have a certain venue, and they don't really care what kind of food they have served because they've got their eye on the venue. And that's great if that's what you want to do, you can always find someone to work with you on that too. And some people it's the whole package. So I think not to not answer the question, but I really think it just depends on what your budget is and what your vision is.

Leah Longbrake:
So then walking into it what should you be considering first? Should it be your guest count? Should it be what you are already kind of thinking that you want amount of food wise? Like if you want to make sure you have like a surf and turf or you have a chicken and a vegetarian, what should you already be kind of... Your dog is so cute by the way.

Tricia Coyne:
Both of them.

Leah Longbrake:
What's more of going into it you really need to be factoring first?

Tricia Coyne:
I think you really do need to factor out your budget first, whether it is $50 a person, $25 a person, or $150 per person. Because you can't go any further with picking out your venue, picking out your liquor, picking out your food, your decor. Decor is a huge part of the package, until you handle that part of it. So before you pick out anything what is your budget?

Leah Longbrake:
Now is that considered part of your site fee with the venue? Or is that something separate?

Tricia Coyne:
It depends on the venue. With St. Demetrios my catering price includes the price of the venue. But with other venues you pay a separate fee for the hall, for the venue, and then you pay a separate fee for the caterer. And with some venues there's a preferred list of caters you can work off of that the venue is comfortable working with. With some venues you can bring in anybody you want, so it just on which vendor you're working with. That's why you have to really know what your vision is when you go into looking at halls.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah, definitely. And that's why it's important to do venue first before you can even consider anything else.

Tricia Coyne:
Yeah. That's where the online stuff comes in real handy, because you can just go right online and start looking and seeing what your venues look like, what kind of a feel you're going for, and then check out the budget from there. Because there's going to be a basic cost right from the get-go that you know.

Leah Longbrake:
Now you see a lot online when looking at different venues and in catering especially, there's event services offered and catering services. What's the difference between the two?

Tricia Coyne:
Events services a lot of time is coordination, planning, it could be decor, it could be day of services, it could be your ceremony. Catering services is pretty much is going to be your food that day.

Leah Longbrake:
Is beverage usually included most of the time or is that sometimes separate?

Tricia Coyne:
It is sometimes separate, it is sometimes separate. Again it depends on your venue. Some of them have a liquor license so you have to use their beer, wine, and liquor. Some of them you have to bring in just your beer, wine, and liquor, and they might have the pop in the wash there, and you can use theirs and you have to use their bartenders. Or some of them, you just bring in everything.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh wow.

Tricia Coyne:
From glassware to lemons and limes. So just depends on what it does.

Leah Longbrake:
It really adds up too.

Tricia Coyne:
So for the bar package it's going to depend on your budget for the bar, because some venues offer everything. They offer beer, wine, liquor, they offer the bartenders, they offer your glassware. But some don't offer anything, and you may have to bring everything in for the bar that you want, including things as basic as lemons and limes. But those are the things you have to think about.

Leah Longbrake:
And how many bartenders and the hourly rates. Is that also then why security is also an additional fee with a lot of venues?

Tricia Coyne:
Absolutely. And at my party center, at a wedding that I'm working, I wouldn't pour one drop of alcohol if I don't have security there. And it's not because I think that anything terrible is going to happen, it's just security for your peace of mind. Because when you add 100 people, 200 people, 300 people with liquor anything could happen. So it's just a smart thing to do.

Leah Longbrake:
Suddenly find out who has bad blood that you didn't know.

Tricia Coyne:
Yes, exactly.

Leah Longbrake:
So now when selecting your food, which is an overwhelming process if you don't already know what you want going into it, what are some of the important things to consider you're starting to choose?

Tricia Coyne:
So the important things to consider are of course what do you like? What does your fiance like? What does your family like? And then you have to figure what do 200 guests like, what 150 guests like? So it's always great to have a selection, not just have one thing on the menu obviously, or even two things on the menu. That's why we always promote three things on the menu so that everybody's going to get something that they like.

Leah Longbrake:
And it doesn't have to be boring either. I mean some people might think, oh, just chicken, or just steak, or just-

Tricia Coyne:
Absolutely not.

Leah Longbrake:
But it's not boring.

Tricia Coyne:
You could do food stations, you can do appetizers, you could do traditional buffets, you could do sit downs. There's so many ways that you can do it. But it is something to think about if you're trying to feed 150, 200 people and you don't know what everybody likes.

Leah Longbrake:
Right. And you really need to maybe take them in consideration, but don't make it the number one focus either because you're not going to please everybody.

Tricia Coyne:
Exactly. And I always tell my couples that this is the most expensive meal you're ever going to have, so make sure you eat dinner that day. That's what I always tell them.

Leah Longbrake:
Yes. I'm glad I got to enjoy dinner at mine, but I never got to have one single bite of our delicious charcuterie board at the cocktail hour, because I want to make my rounds at cocktail hour. So I wasn't doing it during dinner.

Tricia Coyne:
Yeah, a really simple thing that we do at Coyne Catering a lot of times is we'll grab some appetizers and put them up on the head table for the couples. Because you don't eat them during the cocktail hour, not at all.

Leah Longbrake:
Which is sad, but at least you get to have time with your guests.

Tricia Coyne:
Exactly. Or maybe you don't want to come in right away, you don't want to be there right when they're there and want to do a grand entrance. So can't be in two places at once.

Leah Longbrake:
No. And now with being in COVID times is the buffet still a thing? Is that still being offered? What are different protocols happening right now?

Tricia Coyne:
So I am on the Ohio Council Board of Safety Committee, I am on one of those boards. The only thing we're allowed to do is serve buffet, staff-served buffet. No sit-downs, no family styles. They didn't want anybody passing anything around at the table. It's been pretty tough. We already sit a staff-served buffet anyways so that's not a problem. But you have to be careful when you bring them up, you're bringing them up to one table at a time, and there's space in between the guests.

Tricia Coyne:
And obviously of course all your staff has to be masked and wearing gloves, and we of course take their temperatures at the start of every shift. And you know what, those are actually good things to be doing anyway. That's something that I'm always going to keep doing is taking my staff's temperature. We should have thought of that years ago actually. And then on the tables you can't have regular salt and peppers, you have to have disposable salt and pepper. You have to have disposable dressing. You can't have buns that you're passing around at the table. It's just things that don't even think of. Water carafes can't be on the table, individual glassware. But we all figured it out, all the caters, we all figured it out and kept on going all through this whole process.

Leah Longbrake:
As a germaphobe pre-COVID, a lot of these different changes I appreciate and do hope that they continue in the future. And you just mentioned that there are some things that you hadn't considered before that you will use in the future. What else do you think that happened because of COVID, not just for yourself, but you think overall in weddings, in receptions in specific, do you think will continue to be a thing?

Tricia Coyne:
I think that people will think twice about coming to a reception if they're not feeling 100%, where back in the day people came to weddings whether they were sick or not. Obviously I liked the hand sanitation stations everywhere, we have those everywhere before you touch anything, before you walk in or leave an entrance. I think that's great. I like that people are cleaning their bathrooms four and five times during an event, I think that's a great thing to keep going. So there have been some good things that have come out of it shockingly.

Leah Longbrake:
So we mentioned the different types of venues, the ones that have the full service already available like St. Demetrios, like the hotels, and then there's the DIY spaces. What are some key details to consider when you're choosing between the two different venues, because of catering and your bar and everything?

Tricia Coyne:
Well again, a lot of it depends on how much time you as a couple have leading up to the wedding. If you know that you have to work up until the day before the wedding where you're out of town, it's a little bit tougher to gather up all your stuff, to get it all to the venue, to get it set up. Also you have to determine is that something you'd like to do? Some people love doing that and some don't. Some just want to show up and have everything completed and not worry about it. Another thing to worry about is if the venue going to let you in ahead of time to set up? And that's a hard call. If they've got a wedding the day before obviously they can't, and you don't want to spend more money to mark off that day. So you have to consider what are the policies of the venue that you want to set up in. And do you have somebody the day of to coordinate for you if obviously you're getting ready for your wedding that day.

Leah Longbrake:
Right. That's a great call because you don't personally, as the bride or groom, want to be decorating the morning of.

Tricia Coyne:
Absolutely not. You don't want anybody from your family, anybody from your bridal party to be there doing that. So you have to designate someone to do that.

Leah Longbrake:
And it's not just setup it's tear down too.

Tricia Coyne:
Yes, for sure. And again, that's a good question to ask your venue or your caterer, who does the tear down? Because that's huge. At the end of the night you don't want to be going around gathering up your centerpieces, throwing things in the garbage. So one thing at Coyne Catering we always do is we take care of the tear down no matter where it is or what it is.

Leah Longbrake:
Now I know with the DIY spaces you have to purchase separately all the rentals, tables, chairs, all of that.

Tricia Coyne:
Some of them, yeah.

Leah Longbrake:
When it comes to, I guess pre-dawn spaces for lack of better term right now, do you have to pay extra for different things like chairs and linens and such?

Tricia Coyne:
Again, it depends on which catering you're working with and which venue. There are some where you go in and you've got the space for a certain amount of money and a certain amount of time and the bar from them, but you have to rent your tables and chairs from them. And there's other places you go where everything's included. And there's other places you go where tables and chairs are included, but your caterer brings the linens or you're working with a linen person to do that. So I know this isn't an easy straight answer, but it really just depends on your venue and your caterer that you're working with.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah. And so you just have to factor in with your budget how many extra fees do you want to accrue? I know one space we had looked at, it's actually the first space we looked at, is a beautiful space in Cleveland right outside of downtown with views. And it's a DIY space. They have tables and chairs, but the nicer chairs were like $4, $5, $10 extra each. And that adds up when you have 100 people just to change your chairs to be the nicer one.

Tricia Coyne:
Right. There's a lot of upgrades that you don't expect to have to pay, or you see it set up a certain way and you don't realize, oh that's an upgraded fee for everything. So good questions to ask going into it.

Leah Longbrake:
With food what are some of the trends that you're seeing? You mentioned gluten before and vegetarian, are there any other food trends you're really seeing for 2021, 2022?

Tricia Coyne:
I think that normally we see more food trends that we're seeing right now, but I think the big thing to couples right now obviously is having great food, having hot food, all those good things, but right now people just want to have their weddings. So I think that's what they're focused on more than anything at this point in time. Usually there's always some different kind of food trends happening, but this year right now we're just trying to get the dance floors opened I think,

Leah Longbrake:
So just like classic comfort food?

Tricia Coyne:
I think so. I think that would be a really good way to describe it yes, yeah, absolutely.

Leah Longbrake:
When it comes to bakery and pastries, is that also included or is that something that you work on separately with another company, like your local bakery or such to bring in?

Tricia Coyne:
So with us at Coyne Catering we do offer a nice little variety of pastry with the coffee, and we get that from Breads and Beyond actually, because that's not something I want to do in lieu of everything else. Big trends though that have been for the last couple of years is wedding cakes, always popular, but sometimes people will do a smaller wedding cake and then do donuts, ice cream bars, they'll do their own kind of pastry. Anybody from Youngstown, the PA area always do a cookie table. So that's always something that you can add into. And we have great bakeries in Cleveland area that's for sure where you can get special items from.

Leah Longbrake:
Do you have any other advice for couples planning their wedding?

Tricia Coyne:
For this year?

Leah Longbrake:
2021, 2022, because a lot of them are going into 2022 now as well.

Tricia Coyne:
I think my biggest thing of advice would be to try to stay as calm as you can. I know how stressful this is with everything that you guys are going through. We will try to get the information out to you as soon as we know what it is. We don't have information before our couples very often, it's just what we see on the news. We usually get emails that day.

Tricia Coyne:
And when you do have your wedding just enjoy every minute of it. And again, that's the one takeaway of my 2020 couples is that they enjoyed every minute of their wedding. They were so happy to finally have their wedding, or not have to move it, or have it after having it three times rescheduled. There was a lot of joy in our weddings this year. And that was the one really nice thing to see come out of COVID, is that people appreciated the smaller things again. It didn't have to be a huge crowd, it didn't have to be an extravagant event, it just had to be, I'm here with the person that I love making this commitment in front of my closest family and friends. And I appreciate this being able to do it.

Leah Longbrake:
That's beautiful and such a silver lining after everything that we've all been through.

Tricia Coyne:
It really was, it really was a silver lining to see. And for a few brief hours at these receptions we were able to forget about what was going on in the world. Not to take away from what was going on in the world, but just for a few hours focus on something else and focused on something positive and heartwarming. So I think everyone in the industry, I think I'm speaking for all of us, is we appreciated so much our weddings this year more than ever.

Leah Longbrake:
And with that my last question for you is with your over 30 years of experience in the business, what is your favorite moment? All weddings combined your favorite moment, whether ceremony or reception that you look forward to in every single wedding you're a part of?

Tricia Coyne:
I always like, there's a couple of things. I love the cake cutting, that's a favorite part of mine. But I think my favorite part is their first dance, their first dance was husband and wife still is. Whatever song they pick, obviously that gives you such an insight into who they are and what they've been through. And just watching them have that moment together, is sometimes the only moment they have together the whole evening, is always so special. And it's still one of my favorite things of the wedding. I always stop what I'm doing and pay attention to that, I really do.

Leah Longbrake:
And giving your great insight into catering. How can we get more information on you and Coyne Catering?

Tricia Coyne:
Our website is CoyneCatering.com.

Leah Longbrake:

Tricia, thank you so much for being with us today.

Tricia Coyne:

Thank you for having me.

Tricia Coyne:

For all the 2021 couples, just hang in there, be patient. I think that things are going to look a lot better as this year progresses.

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