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Any help with a simple spread for 80?

  • k

We have a monthly meeting over lunch for about 80 people, featuring stale, overstuffed sandwiches and gloppy deli salads. I'd like to make something a little better, but don't want to go too far out of the way in terms of prep time or expense. Everything would need to be made in advance, at least a day, and be able to be served at room temperature (though I could possibly use a Crock Pot for an item or two).

Any thoughts on what would be good choices?

Initially, I was thinking about a few salad/vegetable choices:
-roasted green beans and cherry tomatoes
-mediterranean salad
-pesto pasta salad
-simple green salad with dressing
-maybe a bean salad of some sort

A few roasted meats:
-turkey breasts
-roast beef
-ham, or pulled pork in a Crock Pot

A few desserts:
-cookies
-brownies

With simple accompaniments like chips, fruit, drinks, perhaps rolls or biscuits or something.

Any thoughts on good menu choices? Good inexpensive options? Things you would definitely do? Things you'd rely on the store for?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. It's nice of you to put together something more wholesome than a "deli lunch" for your bunch.

    I love the ideas you've set forth, with my favorite salad for this group being a creative pasta or mediterranean salad with "guts" to it. The idea of salad(s) and a couple of roast meat options is a great way to "transition" your group out of the old and into something fresh, without shocking those who've grown fond of the "deli" lunches.

    An economical alternative to the roast beef and turkey is to have sliced ham and chicken salad -- very traditional but delightful when served with good bread/rolls instead of on stale bread as a sandwich.

    1. bean dips are inexpensive, easy to make, and great for something like this because you can make them a day or two in advance and they'll taste even better when you serve them. they're also a good protein option for the inevitable vegetarians in attendance who want more than salad and can't have the meat. serve with an assortment of crudites and chips.

      another note on the vegetarian issue - if you don't want to serve the dips i'd consider adding a lentil salad to the menu so they have a source of protein.

      1. That's a tall order! Are you doing all the salads & meats yourself? Are you slicing the meat ahead of time, or letting each person cut their own? If you have a decent grocery store, there's where you may want to get some help with prep.

        I think for the amount of people you're serving, you have a pretty good menu. The only thoughts I can add would be maybe having a vegetarian soup or chili in one of the crock pots (or both). Soup & chili can feed a lot for a little, and helps fill people up fast.

        The only other type of things you can make ahead and serve at room temp for a crowd would be fritattas or tarts, like a bacon & leek tart, or something like that that can be made ahead and even frozen, then just baked the morning of. Frittatas can probably be made the day before, and cut into squares or thin wedges.

        Good luck to you!

        1. I'm not going to offer food suggestions but some other points. Playing caterer in your own workplace can affect your work image, so keep that in mind. Liking to do it, over many years I ran into both extremes, from being seen as the less-professional-woman-who-cooks to having a superior be so impressed that I got offered a better job. But the reaction you get may not be neutral. Also, no matter what you serve, providing lunch for 80 people is a HUGE amount of work that will consume most or all of the day you do it, plus prep time, hauling equipment, and cleanup. So think about this: what's in it for you?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Querencia

            Very well-put. I had all sorts of reactions when tasked with increasing attendance at a 'mandatory' monthly project meetings. I had different restaurants deliver and that went well, but then I had PeaPod (groceries) deliver and put together 'better-than-deli' platters and some interesting things. Everyone loved it and i could do more for less, but the project exec saw me then as a 'suzy homemaker.' And another time, when I brought lunch to a group of ladies I'd volunteered with, I had one say, 'I don't do WIERD.' Some people just want gloppy food...... others may get the idea that you're being 'uppity.'

            1. re: lil magill

              Its so interesting -- all the messages food conveys and how different people interpret them.

              I worked in two offices where everyone loved putting food together for the staff and that was really appreciated. And another office where the women never mentioned or brought food. The office was so busy that you weren't supposed to have time to cook.

              I think you know your office and what the dynamics are and how people will perceive your efforts.

            2. re: Querencia

              Couldn't agree more, the reaction will not be neutral. Also, the sad thing is that in most workplaces for every person who truly appreciates the better food, there will be 8 who don't care one way or the other and 1 who dislikes it. And feeding 80 is a TON of work -- I did it a few times for 28 at work and that was difficult. Just finding adequate storage and serving pieces is hard. Not sure what your goal is here (and I do laud you for even contemplating this undertaking, no matter the reason) -- in my case it was to raise morale in a space built out for 200 that layoffs had reduced to a crew of 28, and my goal turned out to be far better served by a series of themed potlucks than by trying to feed everyone myself.

              On the food issue: never underestimate the appeal or simplicity of spiral-sliced ham -- even the cheapest supermarket variety, stuck full of whole cloves, package of glaze tossed into the trash, wrapped in foil and gently heated the night before to melt some of the fat away and get the clove flavor into the ham and served room temp at lunch will disappear frightenly quickly (serve with potato rolls and 2 or 3 types of mustards). A couple of really big blocks of cheddar for those who can't eat ham without cheese and those who don't eat ham. Then a bunch of salads (yours sound good plus GHG's lentil salad) and you are good to go. I'm sure there are charts somewhere on-line to say how much ham for 80 people.

            3. Instead of pulled pork or turkey breasts, why not consider pulled turkey BBQ? You can do it ahead of time; roast off a whole large enough turkey (you may be able to find it really inexpensive as it's almost Thanksgiving anyway) . Allow it to become cool enough to pull the meat off the bones. I make a sauce of apple cider vinegar, water, butter, hot sauce, brown sugar, worcestershire, granulated garlic, chopped onion, a sprinkling of red pepper flakes & salt and simmer over low heat until it reduces. Stir in the turkey and into the oven for about 30 minutes. I serve it with cole slaw, baked beans & dinner rolls for sandwiches. My daughter says the sauce is so good she can drink it out of the pot! :) And you'll have a carcass for soup later.

              As for dessert, another few options are a sheet cake (which would be easier than baking cookies for 80) or perhaps a bread pudding or trifle which I usually serve in a punch bowl, but you can do the same in a few disposal aluminum pans.

              1. Cooking yourself for 80 people is a pretty major task - have you thought about things like transportation and safe storage, and the time for to actually do the work? Even washing and slicing veggies for crudites takes a long time for that many people.

                One option is to simply upgrade the sandwich and salad option. Fresh rolls, roast turkey breast, sliced, roast ham, sliced, two types of cheese, lettuce, sliced pickles, mustard, mayo, tomatoes and onions, and let people assemble their own. Add veggies, chips, and dip, and cookies for dessert.

                For salads - a 7 day coleslaw is a good option for a crowd. It's cheap, easy to make in big batches and tastes better the second day - it's a vinegar based sauce, so no mayo. Pasta salad can be good if it's not too bland (pesto with sbow peas and red pepper would be nice), as can an Asian style sesame noodle salad.

                1. You could easily do two crockpots of bbq pulled pork, buns on the side and a couple big salads!! For those that don't like pulled pork, salads are the option.