Food, glorious food! No matter how cool we play it on the outside, it’s a rare office worker who doesn’t perk up at the sight of free cookies. But not all office food is created equal. Good catering can be the shining spot in a long, challenging day of meetings or training—refreshing and reviving everyone for the afternoon ahead. Bad catering can cause a million problems: slow, sluggish brains; indigestion; blood sugar crashes; and worse. If you’re an office manager, it can be a lot of pressure to make sure the office lunch is a success and that your colleagues are happy!
Here’s our checklist of our favorite office lunch catering ideas, tips, and tricks to help you provide the best catering for your workplace:
Get a final headcount: There’s nothing like running out of food to start off a chorus of rumbling stomachs and grumbling participants. It sounds obvious, but things can change quickly and you don’t want to find out five minutes before the meeting that the entire accounting team is coming and you’re short a dozen burritos.
When asking for input, be specific: If you are ordering from a takeout restaurant, a general “What would you like to eat?” can start an avalanche of opinions that will take all day to deal with. Narrow down options beforehand, provide a few clear choices, and send an email asking everyone to reply by a specified time.
Consider location: Sometimes people are expected to eat lunch in the meeting, and you’ll need to set up a table in the conference room. A couple of things to keep in mind: place the table opposite from the presentation area so that participants can go back for a refill without crossing in front, and avoid messy or noisy foods. Trying to crunch a taco silently while watching a PowerPoint presentation is a cruel and unusual torture.
Think about time: If there’s an especially packed schedule and people have only a short time to eat, setup can be everything. This is when all eyes are on the office admin! Individually packed paper bag lunches prevent long, frustrating lines to get to food; control portions; and also give folks the freedom of a “to go” option if they need to get right back into the meeting room.
Don’t forget the extras: Napkins, hand sanitizers, wet wipes, mints, and other thoughtful touches can help everything run a bit more neatly and easily.
Go seasonal: If there’s a holiday around the corner, think about adding a few hints to the decor and food. It doesn’t need to be a full-on office party to inject a little fun into the proceedings. However, if there is an upcoming holiday such as Mardi Gras or Cinco de Mayo, use it as a theme to choose the food and decor for your office gathering. Use your imagination and brighten up everyone’s day.
Offer some agency: Giving people a little power over what they eat can be refreshing for a captive audience. It can also save the office organizer from taking 20 individual sandwich orders. Instead, buy the components for a salad and sandwich bar and let everyone customize their own. Keep things neat, convenient, and authentic with real deli accessories, such as .
Think about food sensitivities: I know, if you hear about Paleo one more time…but the fact is, planning ahead can cut down on whining and make you a champion to the resident CrossFitters. It’s impossible to keep everyone happy all the time, but these days having a gluten-free option and a vegan option is a good start. In fact, it’s practically essential.
Make the healthy options fun: Be honest, how many apples have you thrown away? Almost everyone bypasses the fruit bowl for the candy jar, but you still need to make an effort to provide wholesome food. Try offering something like an Edible Arrangement and healthier but still enticing snack options like Sun Chips, or Luna Bars.
Satisfy the sweet tooth: As long as you’ve got some healthy options, don’t skimp on the occasional treat. Sometimes the thought of that delicious cupcake or pastry is the only thing keeping us going.
As office manager, you’ve got a lot on your plate, and being in charge of getting everyone fed and watered on a budget can be demanding. But the way to a workforce’s heart is through its stomach, so get it right and your coworkers will love you for it!
Have any other helpful tips for organizing your office lunch? Let us know in the comments!