Workplace Celebration Food Ideas
May 18, 2019 5:21 AM   Subscribe

Each month, the department where I work holds an informal celebration of anything worth celebrating that month (e.g., team accomplishments, birthdays, etc). The managers are responsible for organizing it and getting food everyone in the department. It's my turn and I'm looking for some better ideas.

Almost every month, the food is some variation on cookies/pies/cake and maybe some fruit or crudités to satisfy those who want something healthier. This pattern is getting a little old. A couple months ago one of the other managers put together a build your own trail mix bar and it was a huge hit.

So I'm looking for some new ideas. I have no heat sources, but do have a refrigerator. There are approximately 35 people in the department. I'm fine with store bought items or cooking things at home.
posted by noneuclidean to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Chips, salsa, queso, and guacamole. Or, fancier, a taco bar.
posted by box at 5:24 AM on May 18, 2019 [9 favorites]

We had a Dip Day at my office (~20 people participating) a month or so ago and it was a huge success. 15-20 different dips (mostly cold although there were a couple of hot dips), loads of different kinds of chips and crackers, and crudités. It was potluck and about half the dips were homemade and half were store bought.
posted by mskyle at 5:39 AM on May 18, 2019 [12 favorites]

Bagels and various toppings
posted by sciencegeek at 6:04 AM on May 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

How about a yogurt parfait bar? Supply choice of dairy/non dairy yogurts, granola, fresh fruit (is it berry season where you are like it is where I am?), pistachios or other nuts, shredded coconut, other dried fruits, honey, maybe some nice quality dark chocolate chips to up the celebration/decadence factor?

This could be expanded to become more of a full on breakfast meal without too much extra work. Hard boiled eggs or slices of room temperature frittata, muffins or a banana bread, additional whole fruit or a fruit salad...
posted by little mouth at 6:04 AM on May 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would aim for something seasonal like (in the northern hemisphere) fresh strawberries as the centerpiece. Where I live, large amounts of berries can be either stupid expensive or really reasonable depending on the market and the day. A mixed bowl of berries with the strawberries capped and quartered would disappear fast. You could get some shortcake biscuits and whipped cream or ice cream so it's not just fruit again.

You could also have a cheese tray. I have done this at work a lot, although I set the cheese out already cut up and presented so nobody however clumsy will touch pieces of cheese they are not eating. Toothpicks or something. Cheese can also be served with seasonal fruits and/or vegetable stuff; I like to get vegetable compotes in jars from my european/middle eastern markets.

Ice cream is huge at my workplace; when it's my turn I in bring in mochi and other individual treats like the ones they have at Trader Joe's. Others bring in a large tub and toppings.
posted by BibiRose at 6:07 AM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Falafel, hummus, baba ghanoush, cous cous, tabouleh, feta, pita, dolmades, baklava

Build a sandwich bar with variety of breads, fillings, and lubricants
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:08 AM on May 18, 2019 [9 favorites]

You could also do themes like ‘crunchy!’ (Popcorn, chips, veggies, pretzels) or ‘salty and sweet’ (popcorn, candy, cheeses/cured meats, fig jam, crackers, mini pb&j sandwiches) I also like ‘build your own tacos’ when I come across it at an event by its usually a messy disaster by the end and a minefield for allergen contamination (I’m looking especially at shredded cheese getting dropped into everything).
posted by bilabial at 6:46 AM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

A high tea type menu might be surprising and nice.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:56 AM on May 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

Ploughman's lunch, consisting of several types of cheese, cold meats, pickles, chutney, with bread and crackers of various kinds.
posted by Enid Lareg at 7:11 AM on May 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

Mix and match dips and things to dip them in
Salad party (pasta salad, chicken salad, Greek salad, lettuce salads, etc)
posted by sallybrown at 7:20 AM on May 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh, yes, salads. In the US, potato salad and corn salad because the 4th of july is coming.
posted by BibiRose at 7:24 AM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you ask people what they like, and I recommend that, I think cake and other sweets will be a winner, though not everyone eats dairy, nuts or wheat.

Homemade granola bars, date bars. My friend made crispy rice treats with reduced marshmallow, added sunflower seeds and sesame seeds and other nuts, and cocoa powder in the marshmallow and they were exceptional.

Watermelon slices, cut in long wedges for easiest eating, are popular and easy. Or watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, pineapple on skewers.

Strawberry shortcake. I use the Bisquick shortcake recipe(or the whole wheat variety because I'm that guy), tons of strawberries, and real whipped cream. Reddi-wip now makes non-dairy spray whipped topping in coconut or almond, which is pretty good and a treat for people who can't eat dairy. People who don't eat wheat can still have strawberries & cream.

I love Thai spring rolls, and they are not hard to make, and you can add a huge variety of things. The sweet chili sauce is required. Sushi with avocado, carrots, cucumber with wasabi, pickled ginger, soy sauce, is affordable if you learn to make it at home.
posted by theora55 at 7:36 AM on May 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding taco bar. We had a regular one at a previous job, and it was SO good and always went over very well.

You can't go wrong with just ordering a bunch of pizzas, either. People really look forward to that.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:37 AM on May 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

Salad Bar, with lots of protein options like taco meat, hard boiled eggs, mock crab, chicken, etc.
posted by soelo at 8:25 AM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cold mezze, which could cover a wild variety of options - hummus, baba ganoush, mouhamarra, cheeses, stuffed grape leaves, tabouleh, labneh, and other lovely things I can't remember the names of just now.

But if you bring in a crock-pot you can have a hot filing for a taco bar. Or sliders.

And that brings us to fondue. Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 8:49 AM on May 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Do you know if anyone in the department has food allergies? I cannot eat any gluten or dairy for serious medical reasons and boy, it gets old being surrounded by free pizza and sweets I can’t eat as a “reward”.
posted by cnidaria at 8:50 AM on May 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

Ice cream sundae bar. You get a few flavors, some whipped cream, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, maybe some sprinkles.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:02 AM on May 18, 2019

A selection of fun Trader Joe's snacks and sweets would be unusual. Chili Lime Corn Chips, oatmeal sandwich cookies with greek yogurt filling, Coconut cashews, Bamba peanut snacks, freeze dried grapes. There is always something unique.
posted by RoadScholar at 10:22 AM on May 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Chips, salsa, guac, and queso are a huge hit in my office. It's delicious, and accommodates most major dietary needs (add some veggies as dippers for folks who need to avoid carbs).

Similarly, taco bars and breakfast burrito/bowl bars, though they're a little spendier (and messier/more disruptive if that's an issue at your office).

Other things that get a great reception when folks are tired of cookies and cupcakes:

- Meat & cheese platter
- Fancy doughnuts (we got tired of these quickly, actually, but they were nice when they were occasional treats)
- Assorted flavors of popcorn from the nice popcorn shop down the way
- Macaroons (the French kind--yes it's sugar/dessert, but it's uncommon and special enough to be a treat)
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:14 PM on May 18, 2019

Spring roll bar! Get some spring roll wrappers and food to go inside: noodles, carrots and cucumbers sliced into little slivers, marinated tofu, shrimp, herbs ... Have a few dipping sauces and you're good to go! Fun and tasty
posted by spindrifter at 1:30 PM on May 18, 2019

What about pizza? Can't go wrong there! You can order several varieties that most people will like (cheese, pepperoni) and maybe a gluten free/vegetable option as well. I would DIE for pizza, personally. Mmmm.

Other ideas:
- Build your own noodle bowl (they would have to be cold/lukewarm though, since you have no heat source).
- jalepeno poppers
- Build your own salad
- Build your own sandwich -have bread and toppings available for people to make what they want
posted by starpoint at 1:31 PM on May 18, 2019

In my place the go-to favourite is samosas. Cake is always popular (particularly regular Krispy Kreme donuts), and I have a colleague who sometimes does a cheese board. We did pizza once, it was fine but they didn't order enough.
posted by plonkee at 2:14 PM on May 18, 2019

An office I worked in had an annual pancake day, and everyone loved it. People took turns flipping pancakes, and we had lots of different options, including chocolate chips for people who wanted something sweet. It would be best if you could rent a big griddle.

But I’d also agree with checking on people’s dietary restrictions. I’m vegan, and I never complain about stuff I don’t eat, but It does get a little tiresome and I’m very grateful when people accommodate me.
posted by FencingGal at 4:46 PM on May 18, 2019

How about a selection of snacks from a foreign country. So much fun to try munchies from a different culture! Caribbean. Polish. Middle Eastern. Indian. Japan.

You could make little snacking passports and people could get a stamp for trying something from a different country!
posted by brookeb at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I stick to a low-carb regimen and most workplace foodfests tend to be pretty exclusive of that kind of diet.

Make sure to provide, at a minimum:

1) raw or roasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, macadamias, etc). Peanuts are not nuts: they're legumes. Beware of "honey-roasted" anything: just get plain old nuts, salted or unsalted.
2) raw veggies
3) guacamole. Hummus is OK but it's a little higher-carb.
4) plain or sparkling water

and your low carbers will have at least a few choices.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:16 AM on May 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the great suggestions. We do already track allergy and food preferences for everyone in the department and always try to provide some options that everyone can enjoy.
posted by noneuclidean at 1:22 PM on May 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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