The copier is out of toner. Again. Payroll’s due at the end of the day. You still need to send in that order for office supplies. Oh, and there’s an office lunch next week that you need to plan.
If you’re in charge of catering office lunches, you know how organizing a meal for your co-workers can take over your already packed to-do list. The good news: it doesn’t have to. The next time you cater office lunch, use these 6 tips to streamline the process.
1. Setup is everything
Whether you’re catering lunch for a one-off meeting, as a daily program, or for a special event, where and how you set up the food will have a major impact on the meal.
During a lunch meeting, the food isn’t the focus of the gathering (although it still needs to taste delicious). However, if there are awkward elements, such as insufficient table room or a lack of utensils, lunch will take center stage for all the wrong reasons. People will be distracted by balancing plates on their knees or not having space to both eat and take notes, rather than focusing on what’s being discussed in the conference room.
Conversely, if you’re catering lunch for the whole office, the food needs to be set up in an open space and laid out in a way that will help the line flow smoothly, avoiding bottlenecks. After all, one of the major perks for ordering in is efficiency, and if everyone has to jostle for a spot in line and wait too long, they’ll just end up getting cold food and delayed in getting back to work.
2. Make lunch a special event
Consider featuring a special guest during office lunches to give employees a little more to chew on, says Matt Straz, CEO of HR platform Namely. For instance, the CEO of Groove Commerce hosts their Friday lunches, giving staff a chance to chat with the boss in a more relaxed, personal atmosphere.
3. Set (and stick to) a deadline
When you’re managing an office, you’re usually juggling 10 tasks at any point in the day. You don’t need “chasing down lunch orders” to be number 11 on your to-do list. Establish a daily or weekly deadline (depending on how frequently you’re catering lunch at work), so you can hold everyone accountable for sending their order requests to you on time. This way, you don’t have to scramble to make sure all your co-workers get their meal.
4. When in doubt, source it out
It’s always a challenge to accurately estimate how much food you need for a group, especially if your office is growing. Plus, you’ve got enough on your plate already (no pun intended). Top catering providers should not only bring you great food, but are able to handle scheduling, ordering, tracking and payment so you stress less and can focus on your busy day. If you’re already working with an awesome caterer, make sure you take advantage of all their expertise and experience. Let the catering manager do the heavy lifting when planning logistics, menus and volumes.
By working with one company for all of your catering needs, you benefit from building a relationship and having a professional who is familiar with your office’s unique demands, rather than having to get a new restaurant up to speed every time you order a company lunch.
5. Don’t neglect the picky eaters
Diet restrictions, life-threatening food allergies, or just dietary preferences – forget to address these details and it could ruin everybody’s appetite. To avoid any snafus and save yourself a lot of time, create a spreadsheet with everyone’s names and any details about what kind of food they can’t or won’t eat. This way, you can quickly copy and paste specifics about each person’s lunch when you’re placing orders, and prioritize dangerous allergies over preferences. We’ve got more advice on dealing with picky eaters in a separate blog post.
6. Develop a stand-by list
On the subject of record keeping, you can also save time in the future by creating a stand-by list. This list basically details your coworker’s go-to lunch choices if they can’t be reached in time to make a daily lunch order.
Michael stuck in a meeting? Jamie won’t be back from vacation until Monday? No worries, you’ve got their default lunch order saved.
Catering lunch for everyone in the office might be a daily or weekly task, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Taking an organized, methodical approach to ordering meals can simplify your life and ensure a smooth, enjoyable lunch for your co-workers.