How Do Caterers Prepare a Smart Lunches Meal?

How long does it take to create one lunch? You might be surprised at the answer.

Smart Lunches aren’t just built in a day. They take many weeks of planning and prep before they are delivered to our partner locations, fresh and delicious and ready to be enjoyed.

Preparing the Menu

The first step is preparing our menu. This happens many months in advance. We spend a long time crafting our menu, and carefully selecting menu choices for each day. We do this to ensure both variety and daily options for different dietary needs. The most-loved lunches, the ones families most often, are also featured on the menu on a regular basis. That way, every luncher can get a lunch that they like.

Caterers Like to Plan Ahead

About a week or two before the delivery, our catering partners start planning. By looking at the pre-ordered lunches, they can schedule deliveries of fresh food and make sure they have enough shelf-stable items. We help the caterers try to anticipate the number of lunches that will be made that day, based on past ordering behavior, and taking into account cancelled and changed meals. This helps the caterers set the schedule for their employees, and make sure they have enough hands in the kitchen to make the meals.

At any time, caterers can log into their Smart Lunches account and print out a production report, which tells them who ordered what, and how many of each item they should make.

So, Why the Two Day Policy?

Ordering closes at midnight two business days before the scheduled lunch delivery. This allows caterers to fully prepare, and order any last minute food items that they might need. Without these days of preparation, our caterers would have to scramble to add employees to the schedule, pay rush fees on food delivery, and try to continue to make Smart Lunches, error-free.

Making the Food

As you can probably tell, a lot of work goes into making lunches, before lunches are even made! And once all the food is ordered and squared away, the caterers start actually preparing the food.

The day before the lunches are delivered, the catering staff starts basic prep work. This includes measuring cheese and dressing into individual containers, creating the bases for sauces and soups, and washing fresh vegetables so they are ready to go the next morning.

Now, finally, it’s lunch delivery day.

The staff at our catering partners are up very early in the morning, and begin production at about 6 A.M. Fresh fruit and vegetables are cut. Sauces are finished and ladled into sealable serving dishes or over pasta. Chicken fingers are baked in the oven, sandwiches are constructed, and salads are assembled. The food is then packed into Smart Lunches boxes or bags. They stick an individualized pre-printed label on every bag and box, and pack the lunches into hot or cold totes, making sure to include the packing content label in the side pocket. The totes’ temperatures are taken, making sure that the cold and hot totes stay within the recommended range.

Then they clean the kitchen, prepare for the next day, and do it all over again.

It’s incredulous, even to us here at Smart Lunches Headquarters, how much time, planning, and work goes into the creation of lunches. Everyone here at Smart Lunches is so appreciative of all the work and effort that our catering partners put into making nourishing lunches. And we know that the kids love them too!