78% of American companies have reported that they provide food for their meetings with clients, but not with their employees.
While it’s understandable that you want to treat your clients well, you must make your employees feel valued too.
41% of corporate employees have said that the best corporate gift was food.
This doesn’t mean that you need to take your employees out to restaurants. Make meeting more fun by offering food and drinks during your regularly scheduled time.
You can even step it up a notch by ordering from a local, healthy restaurant to show your employees how much you care.
Here are our top 15 lunch food ideas to get you started.
Where to Start
What mood are you going for in this meeting?
- Is it a lighthearted brainstorm session?
- A serious rework of a failing program or product?
- Holiday marketing campaigns?
- Scheduling out incentives to encourage new clients to join?
Figuring out what tone you are going for is the key to successfully catering to what your employees may need to reach your objective.
You can even take you planning a step further:
- What is the theme of the event or incentive you’re planning? (Can you play to this theme?)
- What will your employees be wearing? (If it’s a casual Friday, for example, consider moving your meeting outside if the weather is nice.)
- Where will your meeting be? (How much space do you have?)
- What food prep, storage, presentation equipment is available? Always aim to elevate whatever you can.)
There are also some important elements you need to consider when it comes to your attendees:
- Does anyone have any food allergies or sensitivities?
- Is anyone on a special diet? i.e. Vegan, Vegetarian, Keto, etc.
- How can you label your food items so these people can dine with peace of mind?
Top 15 Lunch Foods
To make your planning easier, we’ve broken down our top 15 into different groups so you can narrow down the ideas that work for you and your employees.
No, I’m not referring to the “happy hour” type bar. This is the “build your own” style bar.
These are the safest options for large organizations that may be faced with a variety of different food sensitivities and exclusions.
If your chosen bar has clean, natural ingredients that your employees can see, you shouldn’t need to label anything. Products that come with labels should be kept in their original packaging.
1. Salad Bar:
Create a salad bar! Offer fresh cut lettuce or opt for grocery store bagged greens. Separate the different ingredients like sliced veggies, fruit, cheese, proteins like meat or beans, and dressings. Leave the cheese and dressings in their regular packaging so those on different diets can make the right choices. Try to keep everything chilled if possible.
2. Baked Potato Bar:
Pre-cooked baked potatoes can stay pretty warm for a while when wrapped in tin foil, and this is a great option for most diets. Offer toppings like sour cream, cheese butter, chopped bacon, sliced chives, etc.
3. Nourishing Grain Bowl Bar:
These trendy bowls offer a variety of different flavors and textures than a traditional salad. Offer precooked grains like quinoa and rice, roasted veggies, sautéed greens, meat or beans, seeds, and salad dressings. Most of the ingredients taste great chilled or warm, so this can be an easy option to make in large batches ahead of time.
Get your employees into a more relaxed state of mind by offering foods that are familiar and easy to enjoy. These are great options for brainstorming or get-to-know-you style meetings.
4. Gourmet Pizzas:
Step up your pizza game with some flavors and toppings that aren’t offered at most chain pizza restaurants. Taking this extra step will make your employees feel important, while not taking them out of their comfort zones too much. Try to avoid pizzas with marinara sauces as these tend to raise the risk of stains.
Soup is a great option if you want to be able to offer a wide variety of different selections. Consider taking a vote of those who will be in attendance so you can base your soup selections off of that. Elevate presentation by offering toppings like cheese, crackers, crusty bread and butter, croutons, and more.
For large groups, offer up bite-sized selections of different familiar dishes. Everything should be easy to pop into your mouth, either by hand or with a toothpick. Consider foods like popcorn chicken, boneless chicken wings, cheeseburger sliders, mini pies, deviled eggs, meatballs, and more.
What types of foods from other countries are popular with your employees? Do they order in from a certain restaurant often? Obtaining this information could open your eyes to some amazing foods from other cultures.
Any cuisine ordered in from restaurants should include a list of the name of the dish for those with allergies or special diets.
7. Mediterranean Foods:
Most Mediterranean foods are great cold. If you order ahead of time, you can stick it in the fridge for easy, delicious, impactful food for your meeting. Some of the top food items are falafel (chickpea fritters), dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), tabbouleh (wheat salad), kebabs (skewers of grilled meat or veggies), hummus (chickpea dip), bab ganoush (eggplant dip), veggies, and pita.
8. Asian Style Noodles:
Step up your noodle game by opting for Asian varieties instead of Italian. Most Asian noodle dishes are great cold or at room temperature. There are 11 different types of Asian noodles, so you have plenty of options for variety.
Keep it Simple
If you are more interested in keeping your prep time and budget to a minimum, consider some of these options. These can be elevated by presentation, so consider what you are trying to present to your employees.
9. Food Platter:
Head to your local grocer and grab a few platters. Fresh fruit, veggies, and a charcuterie (meat, cheese, nuts, crackers, or bread) style platters are our favorite varieties. The more elevated your food options are on the platters, the more formal your presentation will feel.
10. Breakfast for Lunch:
Muffins, bagels, granola bars, yogurt, cereal, and other no heat options are easy ways to cater to this option. Plus, if you offer fresh coffee, hot water for tea, fresh juice, and high-end milk, your employees will be cozy and happy.
11. Junk Food:
While this isn’t the healthiest option, and it technically isn’t (or should be) lunch, never underestimate the power of a good junk food binge. Grab a variety of different types of chips, dips, candies, and soft drinks to put your employees in a sugar rushed, nostalgic state of mind. This will keep the atmosphere casual and can help encourage free, out of the box thinking.
12. Cater from a Popular Restaurant:
Show your employees how much you care by picking a healthy restaurant they have been raving about. You can also pick something that is highly rated in your community. Humanize yourself by showing that you are aware of and investing in your community trends.
Think Outside the Box
Encourage creative thinking in your employees by offering some unexpected food options.
13. Hire a Food Truck:
Hire a popular food truck to come park in front of your building for an hour or two and let your team pick out dishes for lunch. Since most trucks aren’t busy this time of day, you may find some that are eager to come and may do so for free. If the weather is nice, consider inviting your team to eat and meet outside for a different flow of ideas.
If your meeting doesn’t take up the whole lunchtime, consider serving up some delicious mock-tails. You can serve these in disposable drinkware, or fancier glassware that can be reused. This can also be a great way to break the ice if your team is new or has a lot of new team members.
15. Festive Feasting
Is there a big holiday coming soon, or does your meeting pertain to a specific holiday? Consider starting your meeting with a potluck where everyone can pick a dish that pertains to the theme. This can help bring everyone into the theme so you are all in the best state of mind on the topic.
How to Choose
There are a lot of great ideas on how you can feed into your team’s creativity. Invest and nourish their natural talents to fully optimize their performance.
Look at your available budget and keep it simple based on your team’s dynamics. Consider starting by picking simple lunch foods, and then grow their receptivity to the concept.
Your employees are the framework for your company. Without them, you won’t have clients to butter up! So, you should treat them with the same excited fervor that you do with every other aspect of your company.
Feed them well, treat yourself well, and bon appétit!