COVID Marketing Communications Advice

The Boxed Lunch Is Back – How to Cater During COVID

Boxed lunches. Prepackaged snacks. Bottled soda, coffee and water. As employees return to the office, health and safety will be front and center—and that includes how everyone can eat at work. And restaurants who can pivot from buffet-style catering to individual meal solutions will be the first to get the call. So here are a few key ways your restaurant can better meet the demand for safe corporate catering. 


Until it’s safe for everyone to return to work, the demand for many catering orders comes from essential services like construction companies, research labs and the medical industry. Start by catering to these businesses within a 5-10 mile radius of your restaurant. Market directly and online. Getting your restaurant listed on platforms like Relish by ezCater—that allows companies to make group catering orders easily—is a great place to start.


Forget the chafing dishes and Sternos and focus on salads, sandwiches, well ventilated fried foods and meals that travel well as a boxed lunch. If you haven’t already, now may be a great time to reevaluate your delivery packaging to keep your catering orders as fresh as possible. A big part of this is travel time. So be sure there are enough drivers to anticipate both catering orders and lunch rush. Because when it comes to delivering big orders, you can’t be too early.


While buffet-style catering is on hold, you can still offer customers more control over their orders with customization options. This could include DIY combos that come with an entree, choice of sides and drink. Or offering boxed lunches with better-for-you choices based on diet preferences such as a low-carb lunch box or vegan options. But your restaurant doesn’t have to stop at lunch. Catered breakfasts are also an underserved market, especially for construction and busy first-shift healthcare workers who may only have a handful of choices.


You don’t have to wait for corporate catering holidays like Employee Appreciation Day or Holiday Parties to market your catering services. You can also market after high-profile events like the Monday after Super Bowl or July 4 weekend with hangover breakfast bundles. Or, offer feel-good incentives on everyday occasions like matching meals for frontline workers with every catering order your restaurant receives.


As employees are not eager to leave the office for lunch, bringing in food safely is critical. Start by reminding your customers of what safety measures are already in place for To-Go orders and what is different for catering. In addition to tamper-proof bags and ensuring your delivery driver is following safety guidelines, your restaurant could also:

– Ask for names of each order to package and mark each meal to minimize handling

– Offer a mask, gloves and cleaning wipes with catering orders for the office manager who will be handling everything after drop off

– Over-communicate with the office manager to set expectations for when and how the order will be delivered