Jason’s Deli has worked with events nationwide for decades to provide boxed lunches for groups from 1,000 to 50,000 people. Unappetizing F&B (and long lines for a buffet station) can ruin the entire conference experience for attendees—ask any event planner. Enter the boxed lunch: a simple, premade, hard-to-mess-up solution to catering lunches for especially large groups.
While feeding lunch to thousands may sound like a tall task for planners, Jason’s Deli sales reps Erin King and Printice Lawton say their team has the process down to a science.
“We bring in 12 to 15 of our employees to each [Jason’s Deli location close to the venue] and make assembly lines,” says King. “One person is in charge of chips, another adds in water bottles and so on.” To keep meals allergy-friendly, every Jason’s Deli store has a separate cutting board-and-knife set for gluten- free meals stored separately to prevent contamination.
Once boxes are prepped, they go on to delivery. This is where the process gets interesting, says Lawton, who recommends all planners give detailed directions to the drop-off location and provide a point of contact in case the driver gets lost.
“Obviously, the catering is secondary to what is happening at the event, but we can’t execute our part if we don’t know where to go or who to contact on-site,” says Lawton.
Distributing boxes efficiently in a large venue can become quite the math equation, says King. Planners must develop a detailed service plan well in advance for their volunteers or staff to hand out orders quickly. For events like Passion 2017, held in January at the Georgia Dome, Jason’s did one box per individual seat per section of the arena, totaling 50,000 boxed lunches.
King and Lawton say it’s up to the planner and venue staff to create service and trash-collection plans that cause minimal distraction to the event, though caterers want to relieve planners as much as they can. “Food is our thing, so we want to help and be the brains,” says Lawton.
What it takes to produce 1,000 boxed meals:
145 loaves of bread
160-320 pounds of meat
100 delivery bags (10 meals per bag)
1 delivery truck