Whether you operate a catering business or restaurant, you’re always looking for ways to think outside the box. Your goal is to get creative to ensure your business stands out from the competition. However, catering inside the box is what’s helping businesses make up for their lost profits due to COVID-19.

Clients that are hosting corporate or social events are looking for ways to do it safely. Many of them are opting for boxed lunches rather than traditional buffets. Boxed meals eliminate long lines at buffet stations and the need to share serving utensils, while simultaneously keeping food protected. In this comprehensive guide, we provide you with details on how to successfully implement boxed catering services into your business.

Why Are Boxed Catering Meals Becoming Popular?

The demand for boxed lunches at business and social events has increased to encourage social distancing and keep meals covered. This has inspired many companies to transition from serving traditional buffet spreads to individually boxed meals instead. For instance, rather than setting up a breakfast buffet at an event, catering companies are offering individual breakfast boxes. Caterers can either hand out boxed meals to each guest or clients can walk up to the food station and grab a meal of their choice. Many operators also offer boxed meals for take out and delivery services which provides clients with control of when and how meals are served.

There will continue to be a demand for individually packaged meals at weddings, board meetings, luncheons, and other events post COVID-19. Many clients enjoy the convenience and protection boxed lunches offer as it reassures them that their meals aren’t contaminated.

What Are The Benefits Of Offering Boxed Meals?

Introducing a boxed meal program into your catering menu will allow you to increase your customer base. Many people are no longer looking to have large spreads around a buffet table. Instead, they want individualized meals for each person to enjoy at their small family gathering or large outdoor event. While buffet-style service will always be relevant, individual meals are taking the catering industry by storm because of the number of benefits they offer clients.

Keeps Food Covered

Unlike passed appetizers or buffet-style dinners, boxed meals are specially designed to keep meals protected. They are packaged in catering boxes with tab lock closures to prevent respiratory droplets from making contact with meals. Serving entrees in containers at a corporate event or wedding may not be traditional. However, more clients are requesting it because it provides everyone at the event with a safe and sanitary way to enjoy their meals. Caterers can even meet with clients to discuss how to stylize boxes to match the theme or occasion of their event.

Prevents Long Buffet Lines

Buffet-style meals are popular for large catered events because they provide everyone with a variety of food options to choose from. However, it usually takes some time for each person to get through the buffet line which can end up causing chaos. Guests at the end of the line may begin to get impatient waiting to serve themselves, while those with food may find it challenging to return to their tables.

Eliminates The Need For Serving

Food contamination is common at buffet-style events. Individuals tend to use the same serving utensil to serve themselves different types of food. For instance, a guest may use the same tong to serve themselves raw sushi and chicken. While it may not affect them, someone with food allergies may use that same tong to fix themselves a plate and have an allergic reaction.

Each guest is also handling the same serving utensil at self-service buffets. A person who is sick can contaminate equipment which can lead to others at the event becoming ill. Offering single boxed meals provides your clients with a sanitary way to enjoy meals at large events.

Ensures Equal Portions

At buffet-style events, guests tend to eat with their eyes and serve themselves large portions. While some caterers may take it as a compliment because it means their food looks appetizing, guests at the end of the buffet line may be left with limited options.

Boxed meals ensure every guest is able to enjoy everything you’ve prepared for the event. It also guarantees that everyone is served the same amount of food which minimizes waste and helps you cut down on food costs.

Customizable Menus

When clients order individually boxed lunches, they can coordinate with meeting and party attendees to plan their orders based on their food preferences. Single boxed meals allow guests to pick and choose what they want, ensuring that everyone enjoys their meals.

Similar to boxed breakfasts, buffet-style breakfast meetings provide guests with a selection of dishes to choose from such as bagels, yogurt parfaits, eggs, and oatmeal. However, since everyone is helping themselves, this may cause popular food items to quickly run out. For instance, if the buffet runs out of bagels, the attendees who haven’t served themselves are stuck with the remaining options even though they preferred the bagels. Boxed meal options allow guests to order their meals beforehand so they can enjoy everything they want at the event.

How Should I Package Individually Boxed Meals?

Properly packaging individually boxed lunches guarantees that meals stay intact and increase the perceived value of dishes. It makes transporting meals from your kitchen to off-site events a breeze while preserving the quality and flavors of each dish. To ensure every dish in your boxed meal program looks as good as it tastes, we’ve created a detailed list on how to package all of the elements of your meals:

  • Keep each dish separate: Packaging hot and cold foods or appetizers and desserts in the same container can compromise the quality of dishes. Their temperatures and flavors will mix which may pose a food safety concern. This makes it essential to separate each dish in individual compartments or separate containers.
  • Package sauces on the side: When serving plated meals at a wedding or conference you typically add the dressing to salad or sauces to sandwiches before serving. However, since dishes won’t be enjoyed right away, consider packaging sauces in portion cups to prevent meals from getting soggy.
  • Bottle beverages: Whether you’re serving teas or cocktails, bottle them up for transport in drink pouches or juice bottles. Beverages will be tightly sealed during transport, preventing them from spilling and creating messes.
  • Use disposable lunch boxes: To prevent mixing up guests’ orders at events, consider packaging all of their meal components inside of catering lunch boxes and labeling them for easy identification. Lunch boxes provide you with a convenient way to serve each event attendees’ meal combinations at once. Plus, guests will appreciate not having to wait for caterers to come back to their table with beverages or condiments.
  • Include napkins and utensils: Similar to catering buffet-style or plated dinners, it’s important to provide guests with all the necessities they need to enjoy meals. You can simply include flatware sets and napkins inside lunch boxes before handing out meals at events.

Which Meals Should My Boxed Catering Menu Include?

When creating a boxed meal program menu, leave out menu items that quickly spoil or get soggy. Since it may be hours before your guests get to enjoy their boxed entrees, offer dishes that travel well and will maintain their flavors. You also shouldn’t be afraid to make edits to your original catering menu items. For example, if you offer chicken in cream sauce for your sit-down catering services, consider packaging the sauce on the side or substituting it with other ingredients. Feel free to add or transition some menu items to become more portable or better suited for individual servings.

Once you decide which dishes you would like to include in your boxed catering program, create a set of boxed meal options. The different sets of meal options can include dishes that complement each other nicely or a variety of popular menu items. To provide your customers with the full ability to mix-and-match menu items they like, allow them to build their own combinations. Many of your customers may be picky eaters or have food allergies and this provides you with an easy way to satisfy everyone’s palettes.

Think Inside The Box

Individually boxed meal programs have helped small businesses and large corporations stay afloat during the pandemic. Although some people are beginning to feel more comfortable going out to social and corporate events, many are still requesting boxed lunches. Boxed meals are a popular choice amongst clients because they are fully customizable and provide guests with reassurance that dishes aren’t contaminated. This trend is also expected to remain post-pandemic because of the convenience it provides your clients. Lunch boxes make it easy to serve guests and ensure equal portions.

For your business to begin offering boxed meals, remember to include menu items that won’t get soggy. You should also consider packaging every dish separately and condiments on the side to preserve their quality. Simply follow our detailed guide when catering weddings, conferences, or fundraisers to provide all of your guests with a memorable meal.