Maureen Woodman from Woodman’s of Essex discusses the history of corporate lunches, and the increasing interest in corporate drop-off catering.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Maureen Woodman from Woodman’s of Essex, a restaurant and catering company in Essex, Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about corporate lunches and drop-off catering. Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman: Hi John. Thank you for having me.

Corporate Lunches

John: Sure. So Maureen, how long have businesses been having corporate lunches? Is that just something that businesses have been having forever?

Maureen: I’d say that probably in the last 10 years it’s been something that’s grown tremendously. I think it was always done as an incentive base in the office, where if you had a good day or whatever, the boss would go out and buy you lunch or reward you. Then it got a lot more popular I would say in the last three to four years, where people are bringing food service in.

John: Is that something that companies do just a couple of times a year, like you said, maybe to reward their employees for a job well done, or are places doing it more often than that?

Maureen: I think they’re starting to do it more on a weekly or a daily basis. I think that they’ve also added breakfast. They’ve added breakout snacks, as well as the lunch, and I think one of the reasons is to keep the employee in the workplace.

John: Right, so they’re not going out. They’re more likely to just go, grab something quick to eat, get back to their job, and then that’s good for the bottom line.

Maureen: Yeah. I think it works for the bottom line. I also think that it was a very good feeling for the employees to share a meal together where they weren’t necessarily working, so it kind of gave good company morale, employee to employee as well. There’s a lot written about the psychology of feeding your help.

John: When companies have a corporate lunch like this, you said that they’re tending to have that lunch at their office, maybe like in a conference room or in a lunch room if they have that kind of space available, as opposed to going outside their office because then that would just take up a whole day of people traveling, et cetera.

Maureen: Sure. I think they have a little conference room set up. You would go in and you would set up the food, and the employee can either take the food back to their desk if they’re short on space or they would eat in the lunch room. And usually the corporate drop-off food tends to be pickup food.

John: Right. Is this sort of a replacement maybe for older companies that might’ve had a cafeteria where they were actually serving food in the office or in the office building? Rather than do that and go through the expense of having a whole kitchen and preparation of food, they’re just bringing in food from outside. Is that sort of what it is now?

Maureen: I think it’s a lot less expensive to bring that food in than to try to staff the cafeteria. I also think that you can have more food options with the drop-off catering. The menus are quite a variety.

John: Right, especially if you’ve ordered from different places occasionally. So you might have seafood one day and barbecue the next day, or you know, something along those lines.

Maureen: Exactly.

Typical Corporate Lunch Set-Up & Drop-Off Catering

John: Right. What’s a typical scenario that you see for catering, a corporate lunch? You come into the office, they’re all set up in some sort of a conference room or a lunch area or something like that. Are you serving the food to people in that situation? Or are people doing what’s called drop-off catering now, where you’re just giving them the food and then you’re out of there?

Maureen: Typically we do two kinds. We either do a setup or we do a true drop-off. We would require that you would have maybe a six foot table or something in that employee work room. Maybe a sink would be a nice situation for us as well. And then we would come in, and most of our menus are sandwich-driven. There may be a hot soup or a chili involved, but we try to stay away from hot food and try to bring it all that it’s cold. So there would be chips, pickles, cookies, brownies, drinks, maybe some cold salads, potato salad, mac salad, garden salad. And then of course you would have a turkey, a roast beef, probably some kind of vegetarian option.

If it was a drop-off we would just come in and put it there. All the plates, napkins, salt, pepper, condiments and leave it for you or for the secretary to set up. If you go with full service, we come in and we set the table up for you. We’d arrive probably 45 minutes before the lunch hour, have everything there, and then we would actually serve the employees of the company. So there’s a fee associated with drop-off as opposed to set up. It’d be more expensive to have a setup than it would a drop-off.

John: Right. Because you have to have employees there that are serving the food to people, et cetera.

Maureen: Yeah, it takes longer. It takes a longer time. There can be some hidden costs. You know, a lot of these places in Boston and Cambridge, there’s not a lot of parking. So sometimes you’d have to send more than one employee, even though you only needed a small for a small drop-off of 10 because somebody’s got to move the truck, somebody’s got to unload the food. Typically we don’t usually use the employees of the company to help us. We try to do it all by ourselves. So that’s another reason there can be an additional cost is because there’s two employees that have to go from Woodman’s.

Corporate Drop-Off Catering – Advantages & Disadvantages

John: Talk a little bit more about the drop-off catering style. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of corporate drop-off catering?

Maureen: I think the biggest thing is you don’t have to go out. You can just place the order, you can have the time. So if the help has to eat at 1:00, or 1:30, or 2:00, or quarter past 11, you can really manipulate that to control the hours that are worked in your office. I think another thing is the food is made fresh. You know, it’s almost like bringing a food truck right to the office in a funny way. The only difference is they’re carrying the food upstairs. The food is made that morning.

I think it’s just a nice feeling. I think especially in the bad weather in New England, I think it’s nice that you don’t have to go out. You don’t have to worry you didn’t pack your lunch when you were running to get the train. You go in and all of a sudden everything’s right there. But I still think a lot has to do with sitting with your fellow employees and having a nice lunch.

John: Right, and having that social time where you can get to know each other a little bit more in an out-of-work situation.

Maureen: And you probably can eat in a half hour instead of an hour.

John: All right. That’s really great information. Any last minute thoughts on corporate drop-off catering and corporate lunches?

Maureen: No, I think that you should stick with the cold menu if you can. I think if you have the hot food it’s good. I do think that having a breakfast drop-off is also kind of nice for your help, or mid-afternoon snack where you could just do coffee and something small for them to nibble on before they get through the rest of the day.

I also think it’s nice to have the drop-off food if you’re going to have a team meeting. I think that’s a nice way to tie the meeting in. You know, it’s bad enough we have to go to meetings all the time, but something about bringing food to the meeting makes people very happy.

Corporate Lunch Menu

John: Right. What are some of the things that are on the Woodman’s catering menu in terms of corporate lunches?

Maureen: We have all the cold sandwiches, as I said. We also have all kinds of sliders. We’ll do the pork slider, the burger sliders, the chicken sliders, the veggie sliders. We have all kinds of hot foods and soups that we do. Chef Ned makes wonderful homemade soup. We also can do larger stuff, like if you wanted Italian, we can do some ziti or we can do the meatballs. We have the lasagna, but most of it’s just traditional lunch food.

John: All right. That’s really great information, Maureen. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Maureen: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.

John: For more information about Woodman’s catering services, visit the Woodman’s website at Woodmans.com or call (978) 768-2559.

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