When you only have two or three hours to find delicious catering for a last-minute meeting, it can feel like an impossible mission. So we talked to Justina Thompson, a Customer Specialty Ninja who helps ezCater customers place last-minute catering orders, to get her advice on how to find last-minute catering options. Here are her tips.
1. Turn to Big Brands
According to Justina, the restaurants that can handle large, last-minute lunch orders tend to be bigger brands. “A brand restaurant tends to stock tons of supplies and ingredients,” says Justina. “They would be like, ‘Oh, you need chicken breasts for 50 people? We have that in stock, and we can get that going for you in four hours.'” Take a look at the Olive Garden, Which Wich, Chik-Fil-A, and Firehouse Subs locations in your neck of the woods to minimize delivery and wait times.
2. Choose Simple Food Over Time-Intensive Dishes
Finding a restaurant that can cater complicated hot entrées at the last minute probably isn’t in the cards. (Sorry, barbecue lovers!) Instead, consider simple foods that can be prepared easily at the last minute. Platters and family style orders take the least amount of time for a caterer to prepare.
Here are Justina’s recommendations:
- sandwich platters
- dessert platters
- build-your-own taco bars
- build-your-own rice or poke bowl bars
- pizza with twisty bread and salad
“Some sandwich or pizza places only need a few hours’ notice to prepare food for thirty-five people or fewer,” says Justina. “If your order is for 50 to 80 people, they might need more notice because it’s more prep time.” And remember, says Justina, even if you’re ordering a sandwich platter and salad for the entire group, it can still be a wholesome, delicious meal that has something everyone will love.
Need to place a last-minute catering order?
3. Strike a Balance
If you regularly place catering orders for the same group of clients or colleagues, you probably have all the details down pat: your headcount, dietary restrictions, food preferences, and whether they have drinks and utensils in the office or need them delivered. But sometimes you’re flying blind, and you need to strike a balance between meat, veggie, and gluten-free options—fast. Here are a few ordering templates to cover all your bases:
- One hefty meat entrée, like chicken or steak, and a second vegetarian entrée, like vegetable curry or lentil soup.
- Sandwich platters, soup, and salad.
- Build-your-own taco bars or grain bowls with the ingredients packaged separately, so you don’t have to worry about dietary restrictions.
Tip: Ask the caterer to provide food description cards that list ingredients. That way, your colleagues and clients will know which foods pose an allergy risk, and they can make their own decisions.
4. Connect with the Caterer
Now that you’ve figured out your menu and your preferred caterer, you’re ready to place your order. And if you’re trying to order catering at the last minute, calling the restaurant really is your best option, says Justina. Reach out to ezCater’s customer service team to enlist our help or call the restaurant directly.
“I think it’s helpful to be transparent and polite and let them know up front that you’re in a bind,” says Justina. “Mentioning you’re a repeat customer can also be really helpful.”
5. Consider Takeout
Sometimes you really can’t step away from your desk to pick up a catering order and need delivery. But if you’re on the road for a sales call, consider picking up a lunch order on your way to the office, says Justina. “A lot of restaurants can prep food on very short notice, and they can get it ready,” Justina explains. “But they don’t always have a driver on hand who can deliver it. It can be really smart, if the customer is in that much of a bind, to think about which restaurants between them and their office they could call on their way and offer to order takeout,” she adds.
If you’d rather skip all those phone calls, you can always use an app like ezCater to find last-minute catering options. Just enter a delivery date and time, and our platform will pull up all the available caterers in your area. Or call our five-star customer service team, and we’ll do the work for you.
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