As COVID made us all a little leery of sharing anything—especially food—boxed meals rose dramatically in popularity and started popping up in socially-distanced board rooms and bridal showers all across the country. Even with the pandemic’s spread now under greater control and a large chunk of the population vaccinated, boxed meals are here to stay and for good reason.
The key to overcoming what can seem like a boring option for meal service is to find a caterer who can transform the simple boxed meal into a memorable experience. Not only do the ingredients need to lend themselves well to portability and temperature control, the experience of opening the box and consuming its contents should be cause for celebration in and of itself.
Presentation is even more important when serving boxed meals
Opening a boxed meal is a lot like opening a present, and should match the anticipation. It’s important to pay particular attention to what you serve in a boxed meal to ensure your catering menu works well within the packaging and temperature restrictions. For instance, avoid foods with heavy grease or toppings that can soak through the packaging. You should also stay away from heavily breaded foods that can become soggy when served along warm dishes in a box. The best options are those foods that are lightly chilled, such as roasted potato salad rather than garlic mashed potatoes. If serving tomatoes on sandwiches, mayonnaise or aioli spreads can help keep the juice from the tomato from seeping into the bread. Serving salad dressing on the side helps keep salads crisp once the box is ready for consumption.
Think beyond the food to make the visual experience of the box a crowd pleaser. Innovative wraps and packaging, and even fresh edible flowers can heighten the drama of a boxed meal and make it fun for guests to unwrap and consume its contents. Serving items on a bed of bright green lettuce with a slice of fresh kiwi or blood orange can add a catered event touch to even the simplest boxed fare.
Pay special attention to timing
Boxes should be prepped and delivered as close to the time of consumption as possible. Not only for food safety, but it also improves the overall satisfaction of the meal. We all know fresh food tastes better than something that’s been warming under a heat lamp, and the same principles apply with boxed meals. Sometimes, caterers can assemble the boxes on site in order to shorten the time from prep to service. If menu items need to be kept warm, your caterer may consider assembly on demand, where each box is built individually for each guest when they are ready to consume it.
Make sure each box is complete
Not only should the food be inventive, but so should the utensils and “place” settings. For a country themed boxed lunch, disposable flat wear, condiment and salt and pepper packets, and straws can be folded up in a kerchief. A boxed lunch for a baby shower can use cloth diapers for napkins, while a bridal shower can use lace ribbons to hold food packaging together. Remember with boxed meals, there may not be the opportunity to go back and ask for ketchup or for some salt and pepper. Each box needs to be a self-contained banquet complete with all the trimmings.
Trust New Orleans caterers like Messina’s Catering & Events to think inside the box
Boxed meals give Messina’s chefs the opportunity to perfectly and proportionately pair ingredients so guests get the feeling of a creative catered event, all packaged up into a creative box. They’ve been serving up menu options that hold up well in boxed presentation since their founding more than 60 years ago. Together, you can come up with the menu and the presentation that will make a lasting impression, right out of the box. To learn more, visit https://www.messinascatering.com.