When you think about it, most passed hors d'oeuvres and buffet items are variations on the school cafeteria menu. Chicken fingers? Pizza? Hamburger sliders? If you're looking for a better way, then consider how Chicago's OrganicLife is building a better lunch program.
OrganicLife, which began as a startup home kitchen-and-van operation in 2006, now serves lunch at hundreds of schools in the state of Illinois. In addition to its lunch business, the company, which now comprises 130 employees, runs a catering business that can accommodate groups of 20 to up to 200.
OrganicLife meals focus on nutrition, utilize high quality ingredients and are always freshly prepared with whole grains, fruits, vegetables and sustainably raised meats in a healthy balance. OrganicLife's founders, Chef and CEO Jonas Falk and COO Justin Rolls, recently shared some of their hard-won insights into feeding people of all ages:
Q. What have you learned about the children's lunch program that informs your private catering program?
A. We've learned that regardless of the age group, people prefer fresh, scratch-cooked food. We always hear that kids are picky eaters, and adults can be, too. Despite that, if the food is fresh, well cooked, and visually appealing, even picky eaters become adventurous.
Q. How are adult food choices different from children's food choices?
A. You can get a bit more experimental with adults, because they have usually been exposed to more and are more willing to try new things.
Q. What types of groups and venues does OrganicLife normally work with?
A. OrganicLife works in all types of venues with all types of groups. We obviously cater to schools and businesses, but also work with golf courses, aqua parks, tennis and swimming clubs, and other organizations looking to improve the quality of their existing food service. There are a lot of places looking for better food service, it is just that many times they don't know who to ask or where to go. We can make it easy by taking over their operation.
Q. What is your most popular food choice in school lunches and catering events?
A. For school lunches, chicken (in a variety of forms) is always popular. Pizza and mac and cheese are also frequent favorites. We are finding that an increasing amount of adults are looking to salads at catering events to try to be healthier while still having something delicious and filling. Luckily, we work with Mixed Greens to build some of the best salads in Chicago.
Q. What SHOULD planners be asking for?
A. References. Ask the company for someone who has done a similar event in the past. If they were happy, you probably will be, too.