Building the Menu: Lunch Options

Photo courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Lunch menus are most commonly served buffet style where guests will grab a plate and serve themselves. It's important to select the kind of menu items that will hold up for longer periods of time.

Several different items can be pulled together to create a lunch buffet, and catering managers offer several options.

Deli Buffets:

The deli buffet is quite popular and includes mostly finger food that's easy to select and can usually please any crowd.

Most deli buffets include the following:

  • Mixed green salad (include three types of dressing)
  • Fruit salad, potato salad, antipasto and/or chips
  • Three types of sandwich meats (and multiple healthy breads)
  • Dessert tray such as brownies or cookies

American and Ethnic Buffets:

Most caterers will offer several different themed lunch options for consideration, such as Italian, American, Asian, etc. These options allow the event planner to incorporate their food selection into the overall theme of an event. For example, popular themes include the following:

  • American: burgers and fries
  • Italian: pasta, pizza, Tuscan style chicken
  • Southwest: tacos and fajita stations
  • Asian: spring rolls, stir fries, rice and noodle dishes

Be sure to include a variety of appetizer, entree and dessert options related to any of these and other buffet themes.

Box Lunches:

Best for working lunches, the box lunch is fast and easy so that event guests remain focused on the objective of the meeting itself.

While sandwiches are the most commonly selected item, many planners should also consider requesting wraps. When selecting box lunches, be sure to offer at least 4 different varieties for attendees:

  • Turkey, Roast Beef, Ham and Vegetarian Sandwiches
  • A piece of fresh fruit
  • Chips and a cookie
  • Condiments (always on the side), plastic utensils and napkins

    Build Your Own Lunch Menu:

    Most caterers provide multiple options for an event planner to "build your own" lunch menus, and these may be served as a buffet or as a plated meal. (Note: if plated, plan for a three-course minimum.) These menus will include the following:

    Appetizers and salads:

    • Lettuce salad options (e.g., Caesar, spinach, mixed greens)
    • Fruit salads (berries, melons, pineapple)
    • Soup (two options minimum)

    Entrees (popular options):

    • Chicken, pork, beef, or salmon
    • Caesar salad with grilled chicken
    • Sides include vegetable, potato, pasta or rice

    Desserts (popular options):

    • Cheesecake
    • Chocolate mousse
    • Pie with ice cream


    Regardless of the type of meal selected, it's important to offer guests a variety of drinks to go along with their meal. Common options include:

    • Assorted soft drinks (diet and regular)
    • Bottled water
    • Assorted bottled juices
    • Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, tea

    Suggestion: With the increased popularity of flavored waters, vitamin waters and energy drinks, event planners should request specific brands and flavors of waters in addition to basic bottled water. Most venues can secure these products with a custom request from their suppliers -- and should only charge based on consumption.