Cost-Effective Catering at the Workplace

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Workplace Catering

Whether you want to bring in the occasional meal for your staff or need catering for a particular event, you likely want to manage costs while still offering the best experience for your team. That’s how workplace catering can be beneficial to your bottom line.

Luckily, feeding your employees on a budget doesn’t have to equal a couple loaves of bread and a few pounds of deli meat. You have a variety of options for outsourcing your workplace catering without blowing the annual entertainment budget in a single go.

Feeding Employees at Work

More and more companies are moving toward providing employee meals on a regular basis. In practice, this often works out to be one or two meals per month. For example, breakfast on the first Monday of the month, a kind of “let’s start the week off right” event. Another popular option is a monthly team lunch, often held on a Friday.

This type of casual event helps boost morale and promote teamwork. What’s more, it’s highly economical, especially when providing trays or sandwiches, which works for both breakfast and lunch.

Consider Catering without Servers

One of catering’s more significant costs is the price you pay for servers and other catering staff. If your event is smaller, such as a board meeting, you may eliminate this cost. Make sure to consult with your caterer to determine what they include, such as setup and teardown. In addition, your caterer should offer advice on monitoring and refreshing items if you have a buffet style setup.

Shorter Events Equal Big Savings

If you want to provide guests a cocktail hour as well as a full dinner, save time and money by offering action stations over a seated dinner and dessert. How much time? Try around two hours, or 40 percent, on average. Your guests sip their cocktails and mingle in a high-energy setting, enjoy a great meal, and you pay for two fewer hours of service.

Keep it Simple at the Bar

The easiest way to save money at an open bar is to limit drink options. A beer and wine bar is the most popular choice, with lots of companies adding a signature cocktail to the menu. If the idea bores you, you can make it more interesting by offering local microbrews and/or vintners.

Another way to save money at the bar is limiting it to a single, one-size-fits all style glass. Most glass styles work for more than one kind of drink. What’s more, it creates a nice, uniform look with a contemporary feel.

Practice Portion Control

The war between plated and buffet/action stations wages on. Most hosts feel that buffets offer cost savings, and sometimes they do, but not always. You still pay for linens and serving items, plus catering staff to man the stations (especially action stations). You typically also have an extra expense for food, as the caterer must provide larger quantities. Plated meals allow for portion control. Or, you may opt to forego the whole “meal” thing and provide guests appetizers to pass, which is definitely less expensive than the buffet and even goes well with cocktails.

Location, Location, Location

Hosting off-site? Look for a venue with on-site kitchen and flexibility as far as load-in and load-out times. Without these things, your caterer must provide standard kitchen equipment as well as generators and tents, leading to greater costs to you. What’s more, flexible times mean you aren’t paying extra for late night or early morning delivery and pickup.

Hold the Coffee

Hosting an afternoon or evening event? Don’t bother with coffee service, which requires outfitting every table with appropriate seasoning (sugar and cream), urns, and cups. Instead, offer coffee at the bar.

Non-Traditional Main Course

Instead of the standard steak, chicken, or fish offering, leave your comfort zone for wallet-friendly options, such as unique ethnic dishes, curries, braised meats, veggies, local farm-to-table offerings, and stews. You’ll save money and give your guests something different.

Embrace Your Relaxed Style

Formal service and designer décor come at a price. If you’re hosting an outdoor event, casual employee appreciation, or something similar, look for ways to keep it simple and relaxed. Bottles or cans of beer and soda on ice. Large bowls of homemade punch. Self-service bar and drink stations. Go with accents you pick yourself, such as wildflowers, or grab at thrift stores and flea markets.

Embrace Cross-Promotion

Ever attend a Taste Of… event? They’re loads of fun and there’s something for everyone. If you’re hosting a larger event, you may be able to find local restaurants willing to provide their food free of charge (minus their food expense) in exchange for promotion and signage. Your attendees enjoy a variety of options, the restaurants find new customers, and your expense is minimal. Win-win-win!

With a bit of imagination and planning, you can create fabulous workplace catering events on any budget.

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