2022 Guide to Employee Engagement and Food
Based on Q4 2021 survey responses from hundreds of professionals across the country, we uncovered data on aspects of employee engagement, the workplace experience, and food.
A corporate catering perk is great for your employees—it’s convenient, helps employees save some money, and shows that you appreciate your staff. Catering can be a great way to support wellness at your organization, too.
And in a tight hiring market, catered meals can be the perk that puts your corporation ahead of your competitors. The social interaction provided by corporate catering boosts employee engagement, which helps retention and makes for happier employees. And happier employees are more productive, which is a nice bonus for employers.
But figuring out what to order can be a hassle. It takes a lot of effort to sort through options and choose lunches for everyone at your company. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, even when there are tons of potential corporate caterers out there.
We get it. So we’re here to help. To make things easier for you, we’ve compiled this list of 49 unique corporate catering lunch ideas.
They’ll save you time and your employees will thank you for thinking outside the box.
If you’ve run out of corporate catering ideas or you want to surprise your employees with something new and fun, these 49 options will save you some strife.
Pizza is a perennial corporate catering favorite. Who doesn’t love pizza? But it’s time to step outside the bounds of traditional pies. Why settle for sausage and onion when you can get taco toppings instead? Why go for a traditional veggie pizza when so many companies are offering plant-based meats? (And yes, they’re actually really good.) Many local pizzerias offer some surprising pizza options. Order a few for your employees and they’ll have a blast trying them out.
Yes, this is a real thing. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, and even potatoes make their way onto this festive pie. It’s not something you’ll want to order throughout the year, but when the holidays are coming, it’s a fun way to show your employees that you’re thinking about them.
Imagine a loaded baked potato with cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, onions, and . . . well, anything else you might want on a baked potato. Now mash that potato and put it all on a pizza. You’ve got yourself a unique, tasty catered lunch idea that’ll get people talking.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Two classic cheesy dishes combined into a single delicious monstrosity. You get the buttery crunch of the pizza crust with the cheesy comfort of macaroni and cheese. What more could you possibly ask for?
Whether you call them Buddha bowls, grain bowls, power bowls, macro bowls, or something else, there’s no denying that these lunches pack a healthy, energizing punch. If you want to give your employees something that will help them stay productive through an afternoon, this is a safe bet. They’re highly customizable and great for people with dietary restrictions.
Quinoa is the grain of choice for many health-conscious eaters, and it makes a great base for a Buddha bowl. Top it with kale or spinach, add some beans or tofu for protein, offer a couple sauces, and you have a healthy lunch tailored for each of your employees.
Quinoa may be the trendy choice, but brown rice bowls give you a huge number of options; you can turn it into an Asian-themed dish, add just about any protein you want, or stick with a vegetarian option. (Avocado and egg are also popular options for brown rice bowls.)
Want a healthier alternative to tacos? Why not try Mexican bowls? Combine rice with beans, peppers and onions, cheese, sour cream, and a meat like marinated pork, ground beef, or seasoned chicken. This is another option that’s great for companies with lots of dietary restrictions.
Combine white rice, sushi (usually tuna), seasonings, vegetables, and a sauce, and you have a poke bowl. (Note: it’s pronounced POH-keh, not POKE.) These Hawaiian dishes provide loads of healthy options—and you can often get them with hot sauce to add a punch.
Is there anything better on a cold day or in the middle of a long meeting than a bowl of macaroni and cheese? Whether your employees have fond childhood memories of mac and cheese or not, there’s no denying that it’s comfort food. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat the same style of pasta you did decades ago.
Okay, so macaroni and cheese probably isn’t ever going to be considered “healthy.” But if you top it with vegetables and lean protein, use whole-grain noodles, and offer gluten-free and vegan options for your employees with dietary restrictions, you’ll get about as close as you possibly can.
What might you include in a macaroni and cheese bar? For starters, lots of cheeses: gouda, gruyère, and chevre are options. Healthy toppings include salsa, kale, broccoli, and mushrooms. You’ll find proteins like pepperoni, ground beef, chicken, and tofu. And, of course, different kinds of noodles. Help your employees tap into their inner child and have a ton of fun with a catered mac and cheese bar. Not your typical corporate catering menu, but it’s a lot of fun—and having fun at work is great for employee engagement!
Lots of people don’t eat breakfast every day. But that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate breakfast food at work. In fact, they might appreciate it even more! Whether you’re providing an entire breakfast buffet or a quirky signature dish from a local restaurant, it’s a great way to change things up for your employees.
Is there any dish more representative of a classic breakfast than eggs and bacon? But don’t be limited to the most traditional styles; offer soft-boiled eggs on toast with turkey bacon. Or a scrambled egg dish with bacon in it. Restaurants have gotten very creative with traditional ingredients, and your employees will enjoy exploring the possibilities.
Tacos filled with eggs, bacon, sausage, chorizo, salsa, cheese, and any other toppings you can think of will be sure to bring a smile to your employees’ faces. It’s a fun twist on a classic corporate catering idea.
It could make a bit of a mess . . . but that’s part of the fun! French toast isn’t something many people will have had catered for lunch before, and that’s a great way to get people talking. Add healthy sides like turkey bacon or mixed fruit to keep from weighing everyone down too much to get any more work done.
Have a lot of people with different preferences or dietary requirements? A full breakfast buffet is a great corporate catering idea that lets you get something for everyone. Whether your employees are looking for a full-on hearty breakfast or something light and healthy, they’ll find it in a breakfast buffet.
Yes, you read that right. Waffle tacos. They’re exactly what they sound like—tacos made with waffles instead of tortillas or shells. You can fill them with breakfast fillings, like the breakfast tacos above, or with anything else you want!
Sandwiches are the perfect catered lunch food. They’re relatively tidy, they can be filled with absolutely anything, and they’re easy to move from one room to another. There’s really no downside to sandwiches—except that it’s easy to get into a rut. Try breaking out of your habits with sandwiches and trying something new! It might be going with a vegetarian or vegan option instead of your regular meat and cheese. Or a new kind of bread—how about focaccia? French bread? A handmade local artisan loaf? Beer bread? The possibilities are endless.
The bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich is an absolute classic. But modern restaurants are taking it to new heights with additions like avocado, fried eggs, caramelized onions, and more. It’s a great twist on an old standby.
Caprese salad is a simple mixture of mozzarella, tomato, and basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity—the simple flavors combine to create something magical. And when you turn this salad into a sandwich, you have a great Italian meal that’s sure to please and easy to carry around the office.
Wraps provide a great alternative to sandwiches: they’re just as versatile, but a little lighter and often come with healthier options. Superfood wraps pack a ton of healthy ingredients into a portable handheld lunch—things like quinoa, peppers, hummus, avocado, kale, carrots, sprouts, and more. They’re sure to keep your employees full and energized through the afternoon.
These Vietnamese sandwiches, often served on a baguette, include items like pork sausage, pâté, sardines, pickled carrots, daikon, cilantro, cucumber, and spicy chilis. It’s a great way to spice up a catered sandwich lunch with something that few people have had before—and that most are likely to love.
Okay, so gyros aren’t technically sandwiches. But they’re really close. And their combination of flavors is unlike just about anything you can get between two slices of bread. You get lamb, pork, or beef combined with tomato, onion, and tzatziki, a Greek yogurt sauce that’s to die for. It adds a bit of international flavor without including ingredients that’ll put off lots of people.
Have lots of different preferences among your employees? A big plate of tiny sandwiches is a great solution. You can get everything from vegan options to burgers. And because they’re small, everyone can try whatever they like!
Not all pies are sweet! Savory pies are filled with steaming ingredients like meats, potatoes, carrots, gravy, peas, tomatoes, garlic, and celery. It’s basically a winter stew with a layer of pie crust (or mashed potatoes, in the case of shepherd’s pie) on top. They’re a bit heavy, but nothing will make your employees glad they came in on a nasty winter day than a savory pie.
There’s nothing better on a cold day than a flaky pastry crust filled with chicken, vegetables, and gravy. Many restaurants offer individual pot pies, too, so you can customize the ingredients for different employees. And, of course, you can get a huge variety of different pot pies for different occasions and tastes.
It’s like a pot pie, but instead of chicken and vegetables and gravy, it packs eggs, bacon or sausage, and cheese. It’s like an omelet with a flaky pastry crust. Who wouldn’t love that?
Toast for lunch? Absolutely. Restaurants have taken this simple standby to the next level with all kinds of toppings. You might be familiar with avocado toast, but what about egg and goat cheese? Tomato and cucumber? Pesto and mozzarella? There’s no limit to the fun toast dishes that local restaurants can provide for your next corporate catering event.
Bruschetta is a staple hors d’oeuvre, but it can also be a full meal. Toast with tomatoes, onions, garlic, beans, pesto, and just about anything else you can imagine makes for a light, refreshing meal that will keep employees happy and sharp.
No, it’s not just for hipsters. In fact, it’s a great corporate catering idea; the avocado provides a rich sweetness that complements the toast, and you can add tomatoes, egg, fruit, turkey, even tabouleh.
Why settle for one kind of toast when you can let your employees create their own? A toast bar includes multiple kinds of toast and an array of toppings. Whether your employees want sweet or savory, healthy or heavy, they can get it from a toast bar. And you’ll be sure to get your employees talking about your interesting choice of catering!
You’ve probably had Italian and Mexican cuisine catered before. But there are so many other great options out there—why not try a few? Nepalese, Venezuelan, Ethiopian, Polish, Greek, and Bangladeshi restaurants aren’t too hard to find, and they’re a perfect way to try something new.
The arepa is a South American dish that has been a staple for centuries—and even today, it’s super simple. It’s essentially a corn-based flatbread. But when you combine it with typical Venezuelan toppings like beef, avocado, and cheese, you get a new twist on what seems like a rather plain dish. It’s delicious, and your employees will love this new take on the classic sandwich-style lunch.
The Salvadoran equivalent of an arepa is the pupusa—and it’s often stuffed with cabbage slaw, salsa, meats, and cheeses. It’s sort of like a pita sandwich, but with Central American flair. Or it can be served with toppings like a savory pancake.
A quesadilla is often very simple: melted cheese between two tortillas. But when you add other toppings, like tomato, onion, spiced pork, beans, and sour cream, you get a fun handheld lunch that employees will enjoy customizing.
This fusion dish combines a typically Tex-Mex presentation—the taco—with traditionally Asian ingredients like pickled slaw, ginger, Korean beef, sesame seeds, orange chicken, and soy sauce. It’s a mashup that sounds a little weird at first, but will have your employees complimenting your creativity in no time. Probably not your grandfather’s idea of corporate catering.
This isn’t the ramen that you ate in college when you couldn’t afford anything else. Traditional Japanese ramen includes pulled noodles and a wide variety of toppings, like sliced pork, green onions, lots of vegetables, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, shiitake mushrooms, and spicy chili sauces. It’s great for any time of the year, but especially in the winter when a bowl of hot broth will lift everyone’s spirits.
This is Vietnamese dish with some similarities to ramen; the broth, beef, noodles, and vegetables is another great winter warmer. There are lots of different styles to choose from, so explore the restaurant offerings in your city for this unique corporate catering idea.
You can order these thin pancakes with a wide variety of toppings, from vegetarian options to ham and cheese. The thin, sweet crepe provides a great backdrop for savory fillings—and depending on how they’re made, they can be a great portable food that’s easy to carry from one room to another.
These Japanese boxes are filled with a variety of dishes, often including rice, fish, meat, pickled vegetables, cooked vegetables, and other cuisine staples. The best part is that the segmented boxes keep food separate and make it easy to carry numerous tiny dishes wherever your employees need to go. Corporate catering doesn’t get much more convenient than that! (Just be sure to have non-chopstick flatware available for your less-dextrous eaters.)
Okay, so Louisianan food isn’t international. But it’s in this section because it has a combination of influences from other countries. You’ll find sausage, seafood, and rice in this dish, but you may also find chicken, lots of vegetables, and hot chilis. Whether you’re in the South or not, your employees will thank you for such a hearty, pleasing dish.
There’s something comforting about having a classic dish for a catered meal. It’s familiar, it tastes great, and it reminds you of home. But restaurants are updating your old favorites all the time. They’re adding ingredients, changing what you think of as the most important parts of a dish, and challenging the status quo. If you want your team to think creatively, why not feed them creative food?
Is there anything more classic than grilled cheese? You could argue that there’s not. But creative chefs have given this go-to a facelift by adding ingredients that go better with cheese. Why not try tuna, tomato, and cheddar? Ham and brie? Tomato and mozzarella? There’s no end to the combinations of fancy grilled cheeses you can have, and each option is sure to please.
Barbecue can be a huge mess . . . but there’s nothing better for getting outside, enjoying the sunshine, and reliving some great memories of home. Order a rack of ribs, a few burgers, and sides like macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, and chips. You might even consider throwing in a few beers for extra-special occasions if your corporate catering budget allows it!
If you haven’t had a modern pasta salad, you’re missing out. Fancy cheeses, interesting vegetables, and punchy seasonings make these a great new take on an old favorite. Order a few to provide variety and please health-conscious eaters, people with dietary restrictions, and employees who want a solid, filling lunch.
Corporate catering done in a totally new way, a visiting Popup restaurant brings a few employees from a local eatery to your business and serves employees just like an indoor food truck. It’s a great way to support a local business, give employees the chance to order what they want, and host a unique experience for everyone at your company. It’s a lot of fun and really shows your employees that you care! Pay for each employee’s lunch or let your employees pay for their own meals. Corporate catering done in a totally new way.
Want to cover part of everyone’s meal, but not pick up the whole tab? Or agree to pay $10 for everyone’s lunch and let them order whatever they want and pay for the rest? You can do that with a subsidized Popup, and it provides great flexibility for your staff.
If you aren’t ready to pay for everyone’s lunch, but you still want a great idea that shows people you care about what they eat and want to provide them with great options, you can bring in a Popup restaurant and let employees pay for themselves.
Catering meals shows your employees that you care about them. And choosing a unique idea helps shake things up. Don’t get stuck in a rut! Choose one of these 49 unique corporate catering ideas to give your employees something new to look forward to.
And don’t feel like these are your only options, either. There’s an infinite selection of corporate catering ideas out there—use these to come up with your own!