5 Minutes to read

It happens. You’ve surveyed your guest list for dietary preferences and food allergies. You’ve considered budget and headcount. You’ve had fun with unique catering ideas and then smartly anticipated every misstep.

But somehow, everyone’s sitting down for a lunch meeting and they don’t have enough plates.

Or one team member announces they have an allergy– one you didn’t know about before putting in the food order.

What do you do?

If you’ve done the legwork to set up a stellar office pantry design, you stand right up, produce a solution and pat yourself on the back. With your thorough office pantry items list, missteps become your chance to shine.

Utility Items

Electric kettle in office pantry

ezCater restaurants specify the utility items they supply. But, to cover your bases and be prepared for emergency situations, these staples should have top billing on your office pantry items list.

  • Paper Goods:  When it comes to napkins, plates and cutlery, there are tons of options, in all materials and shapes. So consider the kinds of events you regularly cater and your company’s culture before choosing items for your office pantry design. Will compostable bamboo plates wow an eco-friendly staff? Or does a value pack of plastic better suit? Do you need durable goods for barbecue, or bowls for salad noshing? Those extra considerations go a long way.
  • Bottle / Can Opener / Wine Key: Especially when serving bottles and cans, always have an opener on hand. Sabering with an iPhone may look fun on Business Insider but, as noted in their disclaimer, is it really worth the risk?
  • Electric Kettle: This small kitchen appliance can do big things. Aside from making hot chocolate and steeping tea, an electric kettle quickly provides hot water for instant soup and oatmeal- it can even hard boil eggs.
  • Ice: Have a bag or two at the ready during the months you’re regularly ordering cold drinks. Especially during longer team events, chilled iced tea and soda cans are much more enjoyable.
  • Cleanup: On top of paper towels, sponges, and soap, your office pantry items list should anticipate personal spills, too. Stain sticks for clothes and wet wipes for hands help colleagues clean up easily, no matter what they’re eating.

Kicked Up Condiments

Bowl of harissa

Condiments aren’t just for burgers and sandwiches. When an allergy presents itself at the last minute and a guest has to resort to a bowl of plain rice – bam – you walk out with a tray of delicious seasonings, relishes, and sauces. When one team member just can’t have that salad again, you swoop in with a seasoning salt that brings the greens to a whole new level. Get creative in your office pantry design and kick up your spices and condiments.

  • Reconsider Classics: Innovative ketchup, mustard, and mayo brands are using organic and vegan ingredients for a fresh, bright taste. Some add surprising, untraditional touches; think avocado oil mayonnaise or hot and spicy ketchup. Mix and match favorite brands with new flavors – offering a variety goes a long way.
  • Soy Sauce to Tamari: Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) is a go-to condiment for those with gluten sensitivities or allergies so it’s a must for your office pantry items list. Salty with a rich, dynamic flavor chefs call umami, a little shake adds depth to anything from sushi to barbecue.
  • Hot Sauce to Harissa: When you’ve got hot sauce fans on your team, harissa is a winning office pantry design addition. The Washington Post says this fiery, smoky chili paste is so good it should be the next Sriracha. Looking for even more heat? Try the Portuguese hot sauce piri piri, or the Korean fermented chili sauce gochujang.
  • Get Fancy With Your Salt and Pepper: When it comes to essential seasoning, add some elegance. Fill salt shakers with pink Himalayan sea salt and pepper grinders with pink, white, and black peppercorns. Pour a large-flaked sea salt into a little dish, and serve alongside salads and soups.
  • Love Pickles? Meet Kimchi: One of our global food trends to watch in 2018, this Korean fermented vegetable pickle comes in a range of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. Fold it into rice bowls, pile it on salads and pizza, or eat it alongside burgers and barbecue.


Bowl of breadcrumbs

Sometimes your team needs simple, familiar food to nurture them through a rough midweek meeting. Keep a variety of creative toppings on your office pantry items list that will let everyone spice it up their own way. If planned well, those standard soups and salads can get crunch and flavor without you having to recreate the ordering wheel.

  • Candied nuts: Raw, roasted, candied, or tossed in curry spice, jars of almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pecans make for excellent soup, salad, cereal, and yogurt toppers. Consider sweet, savory, and plain options. (Just be sure to check in with your staff about nut allergies, too.)
  • Dried fruit: Nothing helps bulk up a yogurt parfait or sweetens up a salad like a sprinkling of dried fruit. Be sure to stock the mainstays like raisins and cranberries but keep things interesting with goji berries or currants.
  • Bread crumbs and croutons: Seasoned bread crumbs and chunky croutons pack flavor and crunch with little fuss. Look for those seasoned with herbs or a variety of cheeses, and sweet options that can be used for dessert toppings.
  • Nori: According to Grubstreet, the sustainable seaweed crop might just be the new kale. Dried nori adds excellent texture and salt to grain bowls, salads, and soups, and, because it’s packed with vitamins, it’s a good energy booster too.

With some organization and creative planning, it won’t take much for you to design the perfect office pantry. And after that, every little food crisis will be your chance to step up and be a hero.

Learn more about being an office hero

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Jacqueline Raposo

Written by:

Jacqueline Raposo

Jacqueline Raposo is an expert interviewer. Her over 400 articles, essays, and podcast episodes feature Missy Robbins, Daniel Boulud, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, and other such award-winning chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, managers, and hospitality personnel. Find her at www.jacquelineraposo.com or as @wordsfoodart.

Posted in: Food at WorkOffice Management

Tagged with: Catering, Job Success, Office Management