As we approach the final quarter of 2022, I thought it might be nice to discuss opportunities for workplace entertaining in 2023. Remember, your team has been through a lot since March of 2020, so you could consider some new tools. With more people headed back into the office and the realities of the new normal, your workforce is looking for something fresh and creative with their meals.
Think about what they’ve had to do to stay fueled while at home…they’ve picked up, they’ve driven-thru, they did curbside, they did drop-off and take away. Now is your time to shine! Whether your group is large or small, the options to create and provide unique food experiences are limitless & should expand to any mealtime—may it be breakfast, lunch, hors d’oeuvres or dinner.
To start, come up with a clever way to invite them. It doesn’t matter if it’s an internal meeting or an external celebration, the invitation provides the initial interest. Invites for small events can be as simple as a thoughtfully crafted email or an online invitation available through a dozen free websites. Although, if practical, having something delivered in person is always an exciting way to announce the fun! For larger, more elaborate affairs, a paper invitation through “snail mail” is still proper.
If time allows–send a follow-up response to keep the interest at top of mind. A tip when sending a follow-up is to release little segments of the entertainment, menu, or libations. Even attire tips or “look books” can add lots of excitement and anticipation.
Breakfast toast. Photo courtesy Butler's Pantry
As far as what food to serve; we have you covered. Below is my opinion on what is “IN” and “OUT” when thinking about team and client gatherings.
IN: Interesting toasts and toppings that reflect healthy trends
OUT: Donuts and bagels for breakfast
Chef Nick Miller’s favorite is thick cut 9” grain with avocado, tomatoes, scallion, fresh basil and balsamic syrup, while mine is grilled sourdough with a fresh fruit relish, sweetened cream cheese with local honey. For morning meetings, I recommend an interesting juice (anyone can serve orange juice) or smoothie, like a mix of orange, apple, golden beets, carrots and turmeric with a pinch of black pepper to release the healing components in the turmeric. Morning meetings can be as simple and exciting as hiring a coffee truck to greet your participants with their favorite latte, cappuccino, iced coffee, or americano!
IN: Freshly roasted and sliced meats like top round beef, whole turkey breasts, and bone-in ham
OUT: Deli Trays and potato salad
Fresh veggie spring rolls. Photo courtesy Butler's Pantry
Garden-fresh veggies and lettuce are great options, especially during the summer and fall months. We noticed that arugula, baby bibb, red leaf, and grated seasonal raw veggies for toppings are fan favorites. Avoid the mayo and provide easy but flavorful mustards and herb aiolis. As winter approaches keep your pasta and hot entrees lighter. Avoid heavy cream sauces and gravies. People eat with their eyes even when it is gloomy out, so be sure to use fresh and colorful ingredients throughout the year.
For a pro tip, serve dessert an hour or so after lunch.
End of the day/session
IN: Classic cocktails shaken not stirred, unique wine varieties–even house-made sangria–creative nonalcoholic drinks (i.e. herb or sweet infused simple syrup frescas or mock mojitos show you are a mindful event planner). Craft beers are still the rage and CBD-infused drinks are the new hot item.
OUT: Rock Gut Bars, processed cheese and crackers.
Appetizers could be unique twists on old favorites like Asian infused air fried chicken wings, short rib and cheddar T-rav’s, or baked potato skins topped with grilled veggies and whipped ricotta cheese. Most importantly, keep them interesting without losing their identity. Nothing is worse than guests not being able to recognize their food. One additional tip when planning your menus is to keep hot food for cold weather and cold items for warmer temps such as seasonal crudites with hummus, unique veggie wraps with tapenades and a variety of roasted nuts for energy.
Sangria. Photo courtesy Butler's Pantry
When you get the chance to welcome employees or clients back into the office, consider moving your gatherings around throughout the day to inspire fresh ideas. Greet them at the door with a special beverage option–whether morning, noon, or night–it’s your job to keep it interesting! Try to keep meal service out of the meeting space and maybe provide an “ice breaker” activity that will keep people engaged while dining. Offering a change of scenery could also help keep everyone motivated throughout the day. Providing light snacks and beverages within the meeting room shows that you’ve attended to all the details.
Finally, if the budget allows provide a takeaway from the meeting that will leave your folks inspired and ready to attend the next gathering. It should be top of mind that you are not alone in welcoming teams back into the office. This is your chance to open a new chapter or a clean slate when it comes to workplace entertaining!