Pricing and advice on "Box Lunch" program

I am building my lunch sales this spring by developing a marketable and doable “box lunch” menu and program. I am planning to have a stable of sandwiches and menu items that we can put into individual boxes and sell to businesses with meetings, visiting groups to feed and the like.

I did one yesterday that appeared to be successful. Options were grilled pork loin sandwich and chicken salad sandwich. Also included were big bag of chips and a cookie, plus glass of tea. My food cost 2.20 and 2.40 - I charged $7.00 apiece for a margin of 5.95/5.73 respectively. We delivered, and included napkin and fork as needed. I am adding a few other sandwich options and some other desserty things in same price range.

My question to the assembled wizened audience is what you charge and what you put into such boxes. Is my $7.00 too much? What sorts of sandwiches doe you offer? I am looking at a second menu of simple hot items for boxed lunches . . . lasagna, casseroles, chicken parm, (all with salad and bread) and other things already in our process that can be portioned for box lunches.

For three hours’ work, we made $520 and had almost zero labor cost as wife and I did 90% of it. This is almost like growing money on trees :slight_smile: If we can keep it up. Gotta get a walk-in cooler and freezer soon . . . we can use the lunch catering to finance it!

Nick we find those big lunch box orders come every now and again but man sure is nice when they do come.

The way we do it is have a menu with the choices and then they fill out a spreadsheet type sheet with the name and order. The spread sheet just has name, entree, salad dressing choice and drink choice.

We have found they like the orders bagged/ boxed seperate for easy distribution labeled with the name.

What do we offer?

Individual pizza/ salad and drink 6.99
1/2 sub, small bag lays chips, salad and drink 5.75
pasta, garlic bread, salad and drink 6.99-7.99 Our pastas are pretty much everything we serve. We splurge and use a black microwavable containers because the presentation is outstanding and they can microwave it, if need be.

I suggest you buy a box of individual packets of mayo and mustard for the sandwiches. We use an 8x8 and put the lettuce tomato and packets off to one side with chips on top. We started doing this cuz when you get 50 subs and some don’t want this or that it is very time consuming…we just say it is all on the side.

The salad is ever so basic and we put in a small 6x6 foam container with dressing in a 2 oz cup.

We have also found can drinks to be ideal…cuz we put them in the bag with the other items.

We use picnic paks for the utensils and napkin they come with salt and pepper.

I don’t think 7.00 is too high keeps you from sacrificing on quality.

We keep plenty of menus and order sheets on hand. We also go around to local business and drop off copies when we are slow.

Hope I answered some of your questions.


i would suggest having various price points depending on items chosen ranging from $6 to $9.99. i think the $6 price point will bring you a lot more business. Also offer choice of tea or soda. those are my only 2 suggestions.

Just a few thoughts for consideration.
Purchase 1/2 or 1 gallon jugs and offer Sweet tea, Unsweet (ugh) or lemonade. Offer to provide ice and cups. This is cheaper for you and per person. You have to just figure 8 or 12 oz of drink per person and add the cost of the ice and cups.
Offer to provide the person placing the order a complimentary lunch for her if she orders X no. of orders. This might prove beneficial if she has to pay for her lunch.
I have found that most hot items do not hold well for catering as they cool off and become soggy or less quality than you want to be viewed as providing.
I have done catering for years and feel that it is wonderful money and can be prepped the day before and not affect the prime business time.
Remember, most catering is for convenience to the customer. They want to make 1 phone call and have you provide everything for them. Generally, they want convenience and are willing to pay a little extra for that luxury.
Good Luck

Having the condiments on the side is a great idea. Saves a lot of labor and the sandwiches should hold up better.

Pricing is all relative to where you are and what you serve. We use Boar’s Head meats and our sandwiches are served with with chips (not bags) and a slice of pickle for close to $7 as it is. (and honestly, that’s cheap, but we have a slow lunch) For a drink and cookie we would at least be a $1 to $1.50 more without putting much thought into it. Since our sandwiches come in a clear box with extras already included, we have always been given this type of business as it is without the extra advertising. I’m sure you know that pricing things according to zero labor is not a good practice, but sounds like you have other financing goals here . . . cooler and freezers etc . . . Most places in our area do charge a good premium for boxed lunches.

I am also involved in another concept where we have done these things for years. Pricing has never been the concern as much as having a good product and delivering on time. The person doing the ordering is usually more concerned with what everyone else will say about the meal as its a reflection of them for making the choice. Make them look good and they will look forward to ordering from you again.

Love that feedback so far. I especially like the ideas about gallons, avoiding hot and picnic packs. We did do tea gallons for a our jobs Tuesday, and they had asked for that particularly. They like the convenience/price. I am encouraged that others have found that a desirable for other customers. It took no time to jug 9 gallons of tea in our 3 gallon brewer/urns. We already have jugs in house. I will also keep the canned sodas in mind.

My actual vision for hot stuff will be more like catered events where I serve the meal, or I have a way to assure hot food. We’ll see how it goes. Added price points will be another thing I take from you guys. I already have a couple higher price points . . . I almost don’t want to add too many lower ones. 1) As pizzapirate observed, the low labor costs to me is a consideration, and having more and more business means more and more labor costs, and higher costs, and 2) I want to keep my position higher in the marketplace . . . I don’t want to be a bologna and cheese place so much as a mortadella and provolone (or imported bologna and muenster) place.

I do plan to reduce my food costs and increase my cache by doing as much of the meats in house as I can. I grilled and sliced the pork loin myself, and made the chicken salad. I’ll rethink the chicken salad as my cost for a premium pre-made one is not that much less than the one I made :frowning:

I am looking to invest in some insulated carry bags for deliveries and keeping up with these larger orders . … and print materials to get more businesses nearby interested.

I have bought many bags from BAGS TO GO. They are well made and very durable. They will send you a nice brochure that shows all of their wares. They even have one for non pizza size items.
Think about a cambro style insulated carrier that will hold 5 full size s/s containers up to 6 in. deep. They will keep the food in temp for 4 to 6 hours. Perfect for cooking early in am and place in holder then go make something else and not worry about your 4 hour temp hold.
food for thought

for the hotter catered meal you discussed you can purchase disposable chafing dishes in bulk online. They used to sell them at sam’s they are about 5 bucks and then of course the fuel. I am sure if you search online you can find them. We used to try those and people just really don’t get how to work them…odd.

I would keep labor costs included in price even if you and wife are doing it…so YOU can take the money to the bank and if it gets rolling you can afford to pass the labor to you best cook. (I may have mis understood your comments regarding this,and read it as you were passing the savings to the customer.)


No savings to customer at all. I just did not enter labor cost into my formula for figuring my “profit” at the end. Whether I pay myself or take the “profit” number . . . I get the money. I can ssure you that I will not intentionally leave money on the table.

Thank you for checking to be sure of me :slight_smile: I have been known to goof up and leave cash untended like that.

we do that for the local county jail, jury dept, and an accountants office. The jail and accountant order off the menu(at least 50 choices of salads sandwiches and wraps) but the jury dept has a set menu…It has 13 items ranging from a chicken parm hero to a personal pizza, all get a 20oz drink of choice and an apple, banana, chips, or french fries…if you want to see the menu i can email it to you. It goes for 8$ a head, but well worth the exposure…Good Luck and Good Lunch!

Many good points - the only thing I’d add is that, rather than planning 8 - 12 oz of ice tea per person, I’d double it; as another poster said, the one thing the person who’s ordering fears is to have you make him look bad. Seems trying to shave 5 bucks or so off your cost in this area might be penny wise & pound foolish. If it’s a really hot day, I’d make even more ice tea for them & let them know when you drop it off that “I tossed in a couple extra gallons since it’s so hot out - there ought to be plenty to get you guys through the afternoon.” That type of thing is what keeps people coming back.