Top Ten Considerations When Catering a Luncheon

catered luncheon

The mid-day catered event is the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion, impress a client, or show your appreciation for employees and colleagues. It can also be a little easier on the catering budget as lunches tend to be primarily food-centric and don’t involve a hefty bar bill or expansive dessert displays. Plus, lunches tend to only last an hour or two at most, saving service staff costs.

At Messina’s Catering & Events, our plated lunches, hot buffets, and gourmet boxed lunches are just the ticket for everything from a baby shower to a corporate retreat. Our experience has taught us the ten most important things to remember when planning your next catered luncheon.

1. Timing

To make the most of your mid-day menu, consider the type of occasion and the time frame you have for your event. Is it a relaxed, sit-down luncheon in which you want to feature a buffet or plated meal? Would a multi-course meal be in order? Is it a meeting where the focus is on being productive and efficient? Grab-and-go upscale boxed lunches or stationed platters are convenient options that rise above plain old deli sandwiches.

2. Salads Don’t Have to Be Boring

Salads are the perfect choice for a light lunch. However, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for basic iceberg lettuce and an elusive cherry tomato. Instead, think of sophisticated salads, such as a niçoise salad or a bountiful chopped Greek salad. A beautifully arranged Cobb salad with hardboiled egg, blue cheese crumbles, tomatoes, bacon, cucumber, and buttermilk ranch dressing tastes as good as it looks. Or maybe Messina’s Ponchatoula strawberry salad featuring spinach, strawberries, toasted pecans, and feta cheese topped in a balsamic vinaigrette sets the right culinary mood. Or take it a step further and serve a salad in a jar for easy on-the-go eating.

Salad in mason jars

3. Soups Can Be Unexpected

Sophisticated Soups are perfect for lunches either as a course or on their own with a side of artisan bread. Bisques work perfectly like corn and crab, wild mushroom, or lobster for the extra impressive touch. Also, consider local favorites, like Messina’s turtle soup, for authentic New Orleans Cajun flavor. Soups can be served in shooters for self-serve luncheons and easy portion control.

gourmet soups

Gumbo, a long-time staple on Crescent City tables for generations, is a hearty, spicy lunchtime treat that satisfies taste buds and even the heartiest appetites. A spicy gumbo stew filled with smoked chicken and andouille sausage or seafood served with rice works as a perfect option for a faster-paced business lunch or as an impressive station served out of a large gumbo pot for special occasions.

4. Go Small to Allow for Sampling

Small, hand-held lunch items soared in popularity during the pandemic. These single-serve wonders don’t have to be the usual pulled pork and cheeseburgers. Think Asian chicken sliders with slaw or chicken and waffle sliders–bites of breaded chicken breast sandwiched between two mini waffles and drizzled with syrup. At Messina’s, one of our most requested sliders is Warm Miniature Muffuletta Sandwiches — where olive salad is layered with mortadella, salami, ham, Swiss cheese, and provolone. At many lunchtime events, we offer comfort food with a slider variation of Grilled Cheese Squares served with Tomato Bisque shooters, which are impressive, vegetarian, and hugely comforting.

Gourmet sliders

5. Pasta Can Provide Action

Pasta is not only a great way to stretch a catering budget, but it is a perennial favorite with guests. And you can add action to the event with a chef-attended action station. Guests can choose their pasta, their vegetables, their protein and their sauce and watch as their curated combo is sauteed right in front of them. Or, choose from pre-made pasta options like pasta salad, mac and cheese, or entice your guests with gourmet selections like Messina’s Shrimp Pasta La Scala, Shrimp Basil Pesto Penne, or decadent Chicken Alfredo. Mangia!

Chef-attended action station

6. Go Global

While most people love a good sammy, catered lunches are the perfect opportunity to serve regional or international cuisine. Hawaiian poke is a flavorful, healthy lunch option. Thai cuisine is also a good choice for a mid-day celebration. Dishes like moo nam tok (grilled pork with lemon juice, green onions, chili, mint sprigs, fish sauce, and toasted rice) or som tam (papaya salad with tamarind juice, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, and string beans). Thai food has a reputation for being a bit spicy, but you can always ask your caterer to turn down the heat. For a lunch that feels like a Middle Eastern suk, serve Shawarma, popular street food in that part of the world. Shawarma can be delicately thin shavings of lamb, chicken, turkey, or beef served on pita or flat bread.

Sushi display

7. Sushi Can Add Color

Sushi is another menu item that can please almost everyone on your guest list. Sushi doesn’t have to include only raw seafood. There are many delicious cooked sushi options to serve alongside the thinly sliced salmon or tuna sashimi. Plus, sushi lends itself well to impressive displays and colorful arrays that are as beautiful to look at as they are to indulge in.

8. Add Spice with Cajun Cuisine

We would be remiss in not recommending a New Orleans staple–Cajun cuisine. Po’boys and crawfish étouffée, or our own Chef Leon’s famous mini crawfish pies, can add a bit of spice to the mid-day meal. Red beans and rice or a Cajun boil of shrimp, crawfish, potatoes, and corn can feed many people without breaking the budget.

Red beans and rice

9. Go Beyond the Cookie or Brownie for Dessert

Serving chocolate chip cookies to end a catered lunch in the Big Easy is simply a missed opportunity. Instead, choose from beignets with powdered sugar, a donut wall, fresh fruit tarts, mini parfaits, or crème brulé!

mini parfait

10. Don’t Forget the Drinks

While an alcoholic bar may not be the best choice for a lunch, don’t relegate yourself to basic iced tea and coffee. Get creative with a gourmet iced tea station. Or maybe theme your luncheon around an afternoon tea, complete with formal tea service. And while coffee is a mainstay at just about any event, it doesn’t have to be relegated to just basic drip coffee. Make coffee the star of your event with pour over coffees, a self-service Keurig bar, specialty lattes, and specialty syrups and milks.

Afternoon Tea

Make Lunch Special

The next time you’re looking for a fun and casual way to reward your staff or clients or celebrate a friend or family member’s life milestone, think about hosting a lunchtime event. Messina’s Catering and Events has been providing spectacular lunches on location, in offices, in customers’ homes, and at our venues in the New Orleans area for over 60 years.