Catering to the Lunch Crowd 

Most of us haven't had to request lunch money since our elementary school days, but as more companies transition to catered lunches for employees, diners might find themselves shelling out more than a few bucks per day to eat at the cool kids' table. Far superior to school lunches in nutrition, taste and appeal, these pre-portioned mid-day meal options take the guess work out of where to go.

LunchOwl (216-672-0655, lunchowl.com), a company that specializes solely on catered lunches for area businesses, claims to boost the productivity of your team, while fostering camaraderie by organically creating community meal times. The firm's mission is to make eating healthy accessible for the entire crew (25 staffers or more).

LunchOwl's weekly menu revolves around soups like spicy black bean or chicken posole, salads topped with shrimp and spiced pumpkin seeds, and brown rice bowls featuring ingredients like Angus beef, roasted carrots and mushrooms in a potato mushroom sauce. The lunches cost around $10 per person, but employers can contribute to the cost, reducing the price for individuals. LunchOwl caters to start-ups like Vocon, Thunder Tech, and Explorys to name just a few.

Cleveland Vegan (17112 Detroit Ave., 216-832-7440, clevelandvegan.com) experienced an explosive beginning to its catering business after securing an account with Vitamix to feed 200 to 300 of its staff on a weekly basis. "We got in front of so many people who wouldn't traditionally eat vegan," says owner Laura Ross. "The whole idea behind the offering was that the CEO at Vitamix was vegan and really wanted to inform and educate people how to eat healthier."

These days, you don't have to work for Vitamix to get meals catered for your work family; Cleveland Vegan offers lunch boxes ($12 per person with choice of wrap, side or salad, cookie or bar, and bottled water included, for a minimum of 10 people) or businesses can order lunch options priced from $2 to $8 per person. Some of the tastiest dishes include breakfast items like homemade biscuits and gravy or Cajun breakfast potatoes.

Another option is Food for Thought (7574 St. Clair Ave. Mentor, 440-946-0383), a caterer that promotes intelligent eating. The menu is designed with assistance from Lake Health Wellness Institute and they've partnered with ERC Health to provide an exclusive list of dishes used at all of the insurance provider's corporate functions. Ginger bourbon chicken and stuffed cabbage don't sound like eating on a diet, but Food for Thought's versions turn the table. You can get many of their options in a customizable boxed lunch, costing between $8 and $12.50.

Venerable Tommy's Restaurant (1824 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-7757, tommyscoventry.com), has offered boxed lunches since 1995. Tommy's options run $10 per box, filled with classics like tempeh salad sandwich on pita, hummus and baba spreads, tuna macaroni and pasta salads, as well as a choice of delectable baked goods like banana bread or Jen's vegan cookies. Repeat clients include University Schools, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.

Slightly more traditional, Cleveland Pickle (850 Euclid Ave., 216-575-1111, clevelandpickle.com) makes party platters to feed 10 to 12 people per tray. You can pick two classic sandwich styles to be included for $59.99 and large sides such as zesty coleslaw and creamy pasta salad for $10.50 each. Reminiscing about the Terminal sandwich, made with brie, apricot jam, Black Forest ham, spinach, and mustard seed will have your crew craving a sandwich every week.

Whichever lunchtime caterer your company decides on, these services will have the team arriving to work early to place their orders.


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