Milwaukee-area caterer offering boxed-lunch service during coronavirus pandemic

Skyline Catering gets vast majority of business from downtown business clients

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Last updated on March 19th, 2020 at 02:50 pm

A Milwaukee-area caterer, one of the many food-service businesses deeply impacted by the social distance measures taken to confront the coronavirus pandemic, is adjusting its business model by offering corporate clients boxed lunches.

Ernie Wunsch, owner of Cudahy-based Skyline Catering, said about 95% of his business is corporate catering for downtown Milwaukee businesses. The spread of COVID-19 into the region means many people are working remotely, in turn leaving Skyline without its typical business from its roughly 800 clients.

Wunsch said this week he had to lay off a number of his employees as a result of the losses. However, knowing Milwaukee would eventually be affected by the global pandemic, he said he emailed his clients a couple weeks ago offering boxed-lunch services.

“We are one step ahead of it, we’ve been on it for about two or three weeks,” he said.

Wunsch said he knew some workers would still be working downtown, and needed to be fed. At least one client has taken him up on his offer so far. Wunsch said he got a call this week from a company that wanted to feed, on a daily basis, the employees who were still working downtown during the outbreak.

The food is individually sealed, and employees come down during lunch to pick them up and return to their workstations, with minimal contact involved.

Because of the pandemic, bars and restaurants have been ordered to close and instead offer only delivery or take-out. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ordered the closures statewide this week. Local bars and restaurants felt the impact immediately on St. Patrick’s Day, typically one of the busiest days of the year for the industry.

Retailers have also started closing stores or limiting their hours due to the coronavirus.

To help small businesses impacted by the closures, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced it was launching a $5 million targeted grant program.

Wunsch and his wife, Kathy Wunsch, are the owners of Skyline. The South Milwaukee residents plan to open a new event venue in downtown South Milwaukee as part of the recently announced Bucyrus Club project.

That project includes the renovation of a city-owned commercial building at 1919 12th Ave. as well as the development of a city-owned public space at the intersection of 11th and Madison avenues. The Bucyrus Club building on 12th Avenue will consist of the event space, which Ernie said will be able to hold up to 500 people, as well as the permanent home of the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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