Food preferences may vary from person to person, but one thing is for sure: everyone loves a company-sponsored catered lunch.
And while these occasions are a great opportunity for the team to come together and bond over a hearty plate of nachos, these events often put a huge amount of pressure on you, the Office Manager, who must spend hours planning every detail of the meal. From factoring in dietary restrictions to making sure there’s enough clean silverware to go around, there’s more than a few ways that things could go wrong.
That’s why we created this foolproof list of items that you should always have handy in the office kitchen. When the time comes to order catering, you’ll be more than ready for the long line of employees waiting for guacamole. Aside from getting you nominated as “Most Prepared,” these suggestions will also help you minimize both plastic and food waste in the office on a daily basis.
Whether you’ve planned a catered lunch for weeks or just put in a last minute order, here’s 19 things you should have on hand before the trays of Spicy Curry arrive in the lobby.
1. Salt and pepper
Despite the fact that they’re staples in any kitchen, salt and pepper are easy to forget when you’re taking inventory. Pro-tip: put the shakers at the end of the catering line, so people can season their lunch to their liking.
2. Pot holders, oven mitts, and hot pads
Even if you’re getting delivery, moving piping hot trays of lasagna from one side of the kitchen to the other can be quite the pain. Put on some mitts and grab some hot pads to make sure your lunch will be incident-free.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can’t serve soup with a fork. You just can’t. Keep the lunch line moving by having a variety of serving utensils on hand before that wonton soup even arrives at your door.
4. A bread knife and/or pizza cutter
Whether you’ve ordered a fresh loaf of bread or need to stretch a few more servings out of that pile of pizzas, a bread knife or pizza cutter will do the trick.
5. Sriracha, hot pepper flakes, or harissa
If you have spice-loving office mates, Sriracha, hot pepper flakes or harissa paste will surely satisfy their constant need to feel the burn. (For those who don’t know, harissa is a hot chili pepper paste originating from North Africa.)
6. Silverware, and lots of it!
You can never have enough reusable silverware in your office.
Forks and spoons may not be the first thing on your mind when onboarding 10 new hires, but silverware can really get sparse if you don’t keep track of inventory. Especially if your office has the magical ability to make silverware disappear, you may want to consider taking inventory more frequently.
For larger offices, buying enough reusable silverware for everyone may not be in the budget. In that case, check out these compostable silverware options.
7. Reusable glassware and mugs
As with silverware, it may be impossible for large offices to have enough reusable glasses for everyone. Encourage your co-workers to BYOB, or ‘Bring your own (Reusable) Bottle,’ and stay away from buying red solo cups for every office get together.
Never place another order for seltzer water. Bring Bevi to your office and get unlimited refills of still or sparkling flavored water on demand. Bevi is an eco-friendly alternative to bottles and cans because it allows your office to get customizable refills of flavored water using the reusable glassware right in your office kitchen.
9. Recyclable Napkins
These are relatively inexpensive, and easy to buy and store in bulk. Enlist a few of the office’s eco-warriors to help drop a few hints that these napkins belong in the recycling bin, not the trash.
10. Different sizes and types of compostable plates and bowls
Nothing is more annoying than eating ice cream on a plate. If your office likes to throw surprise sundae parties or eats an inordinate amount of chili, it’s probably in your best interest to have more than just large compostable plates on hand.
And remember: even if they’re compostable or recyclable, one-time use containers in your kitchen should be a last resort. Try to put any reusable dishware out first before breaking out the paper plates.
Finger food is not for everyone. Have a stash of toothpicks in the office kitchen and devour that fancy cheese tray with your cheese-loving co-workers.
12. Compostable straws
Who said happy hour can’t be eco-friendly hour as well? Before you start mixing drinks, be sure to have some 100% biodegradable straws on hand. They look and feel just like the plastic ones, letting you enjoy a guilt-free Thirsty Thursday with your co-workers.
13. Sign up for ezCater and download the app
Getting catered lunch for the office has never been easier. With ezCater, you can filter by food type, budget, and location, and see exactly which caterers are right for your office. Download the app before you do any party planning and explore all the different catering options in your area.
14. Menu card holders, index cards and a sharpie
While bigger catering orders might come with printed menu cards, consider making your own for smaller orders. Grab a few menu card holders, some index cards, and a sharpie, and write a label for each kind of burrito you ordered for the office. This is a quick and easy way to make sure you’ll never have to answer the question “What’s in this?” again.
15. Clearly labelled bins for trash, recycling and compost, and the appropriate bags
When there’s 25 hungry people waiting for tacos, recycling bins will probably be the last thing on your mind. Prepare yourself for the rapid influx of waste by keeping extra bags on hand or adding a second recycling or trash bin to the fold. If you have moveable bins, be sure to set them out in a clearly visible area and label them accordingly.
16. Office reusable containers
With office catering, it’s always better to have too much than too little. Rather than take up an entire shelf of your fridge with a half empty aluminum tray, transfer the food to a few Tupperware containers. Not only will this help to reduce food waste, but it will also help keep the food fresh.
17. Sponges and microfiber cleaning cloths
In most offices, paper towels are the go-to method for cleaning up spill, yet there are many inexpensive, eco-friendly alternatives. Get yourself a stack of microfiber cleaning clothes and a squad of sponges, and attack that chili spill with some eco-minded enthusiasm!
18. Extra seating and/or outdoor friendly seating
You’ve put so much effort into planning this company bonding session — don’t let people eat at their desks! While not every kitchen space can accommodate the entire company, there are several ways to get more people to eat together.
Have some folding chairs, camping chairs or extra benches in storage so your team can eat as an entire unit. If you access to a bit of space outside, you could even purchase a few folding picnic tables, allowing employees to enjoy a catered lunch in the open air.
19. Feedback survey
Keep up with your office’s catering preferences by collecting feedback each time you order out. There are many quick and easy ways to automate the feedback process that can be setup weeks in advance; use a Slack poll, create a brief google form or put together a survey on SurveyMonkey — you’ll thank yourself next time you have to place an order.
Do you have any go-to items in your office kitchen? Let us know in the comments below!
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