Redesigning Food at Work
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
Ordering lunch for yourself is easy. Ordering lunch for your entire company? Not so much. Coming up with company lunch catering ideas that will please all of your coworkers’ taste buds can be stressful, but we have a few ideas that might help.
Here at Fooda, we spend a lot of time thinking about lunch. A catered lunch is more than just a break in the workday, it’s an opportunity to bring the entire company together around a shared culinary experience. Anyone can order sandwiches, but for a truly exciting and memorable company lunch, you need some catering ideas that go just a bit outside of the box.
Because lunch is more-or-less always on our minds, we’ve created this list of 15 catering ideas that will have the entire company salivating.
Let’s take just a moment to appreciate the hearty simplicity of the grilled cheese sandwich. Buttery toasted bread wrapped around a gooey, melted heart of cheesy goodness … mmmmm. It’s a meal that anyone can make, but it can also be completely transformed when it’s reinvented by a passionate chef. Who wouldn’t want to try a rustic sourdough stuffed with crisp bacon, sweet green apple slices, and spicy mustard on a bed of melted provolone, Swiss, and Gouda? The flavor combinations of a gourmet grilled cheese are endless, and many chefs can even adapt their recipes to accommodate non-dairy and vegan/vegetarian options. (Yes, cheese-free grilled cheese is totally a thing.)
The French have a long street-food tradition, and savory crêpes may be the best-known example here in the U.S. Unlike the sweet, breakfast-specific variety, savory crêpes are an essentially French spin on comfort food. From the rustic appeal of ham, mozzarella, and mustard to more complex flavors combinations like chicken breast with mushrooms and goat cheese, crêpes provide an ideal platform for delivering a filling, flavor-packed lunch. And if you really want your teams to say “Vive la France!” just add some classic pommes frites with herb-infused mayonnaise on the side.
A little spicy heat can turn ordinary fried chicken into a truly extraordinary meal. A little too much heat … well, let’s just avoid that. Once Nashville’s best-kept culinary secret, hot chicken shacks have been popping up all over the country in the last decade. While most people are content to stick to the milder versions of hot chicken (for good reason), it might be worth ordering a few plates of the medium and genuinely hot stuff for everyone to sample. Just be sure keep a few heat-killing ice-cream sandwiches on hand in case anyone gets a little too brave, and maybe avoid anything with Ghost Peppers or Carolina Reapers in the ingredients.
Until you’ve experienced it for yourself, it’s difficult to appreciate just how varied, complex, and delicious Indian street food can be. It’s also one of the rare fast-food styles that lean heavily on vegetarian offerings, owing to the meat-free traditions of India’s Hindu population. From lighter fare like bhelpuri (puffed rice, vegetables and tamarind sauce) and aloo chaat (spiced fried potatoes) to more substantial dishes like kheema pav (also known as “Indian Sloppy Joes”), your teams are sure to find a new favorite dish. Some Indian menus even include meat-based options, like chicken pakora and malasa fish rolls, which could help to appease any grumbling carnivores.
Another great option for an office filled with spice lovers, Cajun cooking has plenty to offer. It’s hard for anyone to turn down the chance to sample some legit Louisiana seafood gumbo and jambalaya, or to pass up a shrimp po’ boy. It’s a distinctly American cuisine that many people, particularly outside of the Gulf Coast, might not have had the opportunity to try.
This uniquely delicious collision of flavors could just be the most exciting culinary crossover of the modern age. Korean tacos started out as a novelty option in the L.A. food truck scene back in 2009, but today they’re everywhere. Who knew that filling traditional Mexican corn tortillas with bulgogi and kimchi (among other Korean-style options) could result in such an intensely yummy lunch? If you live in a major city, odds are that there’s at least one place to get your fix of this must-try Latin-Asian street food. If your company lunches are getting a little predictable, Korean tacos may be just the thing.
One of the tastier results of European colonialism, this distinctly Vietnamese style of sandwich marries French baguettes with southeast Asian ingredients like daikon and chả lụa (pork sausage). It’s been a popular street food in Saigon since the 1950s, and in recent years bánh mì stands and food trucks have become an increasingly common sight in U.S. cities. Combined with some fresh spring rolls, and you have a perfectly bright and tasty mid-day meal that won’t put your team into an afternoon food coma.
When you want to please absolutely everyone in the office, it’s hard to go wrong with tacos. At the same time, haven’t we all gotten a little bored with the standard fillings of ground beef, tomato, lettuce, sour cream and cheddar? It’s time to go back to the authentic Mexican flavors that started it all. Doesn’t a skirt steak taco with cilantro, diced onions and salsa verde make your mouth water? How about fried fish with avocado crema and a squeeze of fresh lime juice? Or carnitas with pickled red onions and jalapeno? Combine this with a bowl of chips, a bowl of guacamole, and a big helping of fresh salsa, and lunch becomes an office fiesta!
One of the more creative company lunch catering ideas… What if you could take a food-fueled trip across the U.S. without ever leaving the office? It’s easier than you may think. Just set up a few tables, and decide on a few iconic dishes from across the country for your coworkers to sample. In a large city, you’ll be able to bring together everything from Brooklyn-style thin-crust pizza and legit-tasting Philly Cheesesteaks to Sushi Burritos from San Fran and beignets from New Orleans. The possibilities are endless, with virtually every restaurant and caterer having some tasty original takes on these classic American dishes.
From vinegar-drenched pulled pork to tomato-sweetened ribs, and from smoked brisket to dry rubbed chicken, few lunch options have the staggering variety of the humble barbeque. And, as any BBQ aficionado will tell you, the sides matter just as much as the meats. Roasted brussels sprouts, mac & cheese, collard greens, baked beans … what more do you need? And don’t forget the cornbread. Sure, BBQ can get a little messy, but it’s nothing that a few hand wipes and napkins can’t fix. That said, this may not be a great option if your company as a busy afternoon ahead, because at least half of your staff will be quietly napping in a meeting room after lunch.
If you’re worried that a meal best described as a “raw seafood salad” might not be to everyone’s taste, we get that. But poke isn’t just the latest Hawaiian food fad. It’s a dish that’s having a real cultural “moment” among foodies, combining equal parts sushi and spice into something that’s genuinely delicious. It’s also a much healthier option than a lot of lunch options. Why not lean into it, and give your colleagues something they can Instagram? Maybe with the caption: “Best. Lunch. Ever.”
Forget about those sweet, dessert-like Belgian waffles, piled high with strawberries and whipped cream. We’re talking about the savory, mouth-watering waffle dishes that are taking the culinary world by storm. From the classic combo of chicken and waffle sandwiches (if you haven’t tried it, now’s the time) to gastropub variations like cornbread and chili waffles, hashbrown waffles, waffled falafel. There’s no shortage of incredible savory creations out there, so why not wow your coworkers with waffles?
In 2017, after polling some 35,000 people with a passion for global foods, CNN Travel published their list of the “World’s 50 Best Foods.” Thai cuisine absolutely dominated that list, taking seven out of the 50 slots. That’s probably not a surprise for anyone who has tasted moo nam tok (grilled pork with lemon juice, green onions, chili, mint sprigs, fish sauce and toasted rice) or som tam (papaya salad with tamarind juice, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, and string beans). Sure, Thai food has a well-deserved reputation for being a little fiery, but you can always ask the caterer to turn the heat down a little so that the rest of the flavors shine.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already done a lot to shape today’s pop culture, but its most important culinary legacy is almost certainly the post-credits scene in The Avengers, which introduced an entire generation of movie-goers to this absolutely delectable street food from the Eastern Mediterranean. What’s not to like about delicately thin shavings of lamb, chicken, turkey, or beef served on pita or other flatbread? Add a few sides like rice or fries, and you have the makings of a truly heroic company lunch.
We promised you out-of-the-box lunch ideas, but this one is more literal than figurative. Pizza is the one option that almost no one will grumble about. Everyone likes pizza. In fact, about 1 in 8 Americans eats pizza on any given day. Part of pizza’s lasting popularity comes from its variety. There are countless topping and sauce combinations out there, and plenty of caterers who have truly original pizza recipes. Ever tried a bacon and egg pizza? How about a walnut and portabella one with a pesto base? Even if you just stick to the classic pepperoni, pizza is the can’t miss meal that you can always count on to feed an army of coworkers.
One of the great things about coming up with company lunch catering ideas for your company lunch is that even a smallish city can have a ton of great options for feeding your coworkers. If you work in an area with a thriving food scene, as many of us do, you’ll never run out of new dishes and flavors to try. By bringing a little variety into the company lunch, you’re giving every you work with a little taste of what your city has to offer.