It's 12:30 p.m. and the day's lunch orders have all been delivered to CT Networks in Hauppauge. For chief executive Barry Goldstein, this marks the start of a sacred hour. He and a loosely gathered group of five or six employees meet in the company kitchen to dig into chicken Caesar salad pizza, eggplant rollatini and a Greek salad, all ordered from nearby delis and restaurants. "We're all food freaks," said Goldstein, who has strict talking points for lunch: food, family, fun. No business chatter allowed.
Lunch delivery knows no set time at the Day-Op Center of Long Island in Mineola. The groups eating together change daily, depending upon the center's operating schedule. "Everyone shares," said medical records specialist Lori Doris, setting out a Grandma pizza from Cafe Rossini. Wearing scrubs, anesthesiologist Anthony Petrini downs a small piece while standing up. Then, he's off to the next case.
Lunch delivery is a major operation in office buildings all over Long Island. Every afternoon, people refuel and revive without having to leave the building.
There may be pitfalls along the way. A lost order. A late order. An incorrectly filled order. To learn how to best manage the process, we visited three offices in the major business hubs of Mineola, Melville and Hauppauge.
(an information technology service and support company in Hauppauge)
Everything is timed for 12:30 p.m. Angela Santorello, controller, and Jodi Ball, sales director, do most of the phoning and faxing. "You've got to get your order into Leonardo's by 10:30, or he gets backed up," Santorello says. An early fax also goes out to John Moore's Deli. Around 11:30 a.m., orders are phoned into Mario's and Golden Dragon -- the first two to show up. For tips, everyone puts in a dollar. "When there are five of us, the delivery guy makes out like a bandit," Ball said.
Everyone has an accustomed seat around the kitchen table, where the talk centers around the food of the moment as well as who's eaten where over the weekend and what restaurants are on tap for next.
There's universal agreement that Leonardo's grilled chicken rules. "We don't know what he does to it," says Santorello. Meanwhile, Joanne Pallone, installations manager, transfers Leonardo's Greek salad to a big plastic bowl, tops it with the chicken and a little yogurt sauce and tosses everything together. Everyone helps themselves. Another group favorite is the grilled chicken Caesar salad pizza from Mario's. "I introduced that pizza to the group," says Melissa Rangell, vice president of marketing, as she watches the pie disappear. There's still room for a piece of the ever-popular "Conza" panino (kind of a turkey Cubano) from John Moore's. And shrimp with broccoli from Golden Dragon.
Leftovers are dealt with summarily: A platter is made for "cleanup guy," customer care manager Anthony Palumbo. "I already ate," Palumbo says, tucking into a slice of Italian hero, "but I'll pick."
Then, it's back to serious business. "What happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen," says Rangell on the way back to her desk.
Orders are usually phoned or faxed in around 10:30 a.m., says Lori Doris, a technician, adding that most everybody shares both the food and the cost, tipping the delivery person about $2. "Sometimes, though, a doctor will buy lunch for everyone in the OR."
That's not happening today, so the group pores over menus, deciding that the grandma pizza from Cafe Rossini is mandatory, as are meatballs and a salad from the new Brown Box Cafe. "And tiramisu," pipes up Shatica Green, a technician. From Ardito's comes a warm chicken salad, a chicken cutlet hero and penne ala vodka. Nurse Anna Gemmo decides to "go wild" with a roast beef hero from Junior's Hero Shop across the street.
The Brown Box order comes first, everything packaged in cute little brown boxes. Vegetarian meatballs in tomato sauce and beef balls with marinara and mozzarella score highly, as does the mandarin chicken salad. "Sometimes, they'll throw in little samples," says Lorraine Bottjer, a billing specialist. "Smart marketing."
When the pizza arrives, Bottjer quickly tears the cover off the box and cuts out a coupon; 10 will get a free pizza. Half the pie vanishes right away; the rest retains its appeal even after cooling. The penne from Ardito's is another hit, as is the roast beef hero from Junior's.
Most everyone takes a small taste of Green's tiramisu from Brown Box, leaving the rest for her. "I'm the sweet one," she declares before taking off for the OR.
Press Schonig Rosenthal & Co.
(a tax and financial services firm in Farmingdale)
Most of the 12 people at Press Schonig arrive at work well before 9 a.m. "By 11:30, we're chewing on our fingernails," says managing partner Joe Press, "so we like to eat lunch early." Dianne Newell, the highly organized office manager, keeps a binder with menus from all the restaurants the staff likes to order from; she has standing accounts at Suburban, Bellagio and Pete's Deli on Main Street in Farmingdale. Ordering responsibility rotates. This day, Newell faxed an order to Suburban at 10:50 a.m.; called Jade Palace at 11:10 a.m. Both these orders showed up, as requested, around noon. The Bellagio order was submitted online before the pizzeria opened at 11, and it was the straggler, showing up at 12:30 p.m. In general, the person doing the ordering is responsible for collecting the money, though once or twice a month, the company picks up the tab.
As befits a financial-services company, Press Schonig puts an emphasis on value and efficiency. Most people try to stay below a $10 tab, and no one orders drinks. Food is delivered to the conference room, then folks take it back to their desks. Suburban is the office's "upscale" deli choice. Both Evan Radecki and Janet Hannigan got that day's special, tilapia Veracruz, while partner Eric Rosenthal got the taco salad and vegetarian pea soup. Rosenthal tries to eat healthy, but it didn't stop him from eyeing longingly the Buffalo chicken fingers and fries ordered by a younger colleague, Tim Wagner. (When the office wants classic deli, bigger portions, lower prices, it orders from Pete's.)
Newell got one of her favorite lunches, Bellagio's whole-wheat salad pizza. Kim Thomas, the firm's newest hire, tried General Tso's chicken (from Jade Palace) for the first time. Joe Press managed to avail himself of every delivery option. He cadged a piece of Bellagio pizza from Newell, and immediately dug into a combination of sushi rolls from Jade Palace. The turkey burger from Suburban, he put into the office fridge for tomorrow's breakfast.
Who else is delivering
Tips for ordering with ease
Offices that order lunch frequently have it down to a science. Not only does an efficient ordering procedure encourage office harmony, it marks your office as a good customer -- which leads to better service.
- Order as early as possible. Everyone on Long Island wants to eat at noon. The orders received first generally get delivered first.
- Consider ordering online from restaurants that provide it.
- Order clearly and concisely. If you're faxing in your order, make sure the writing is legible. If you are phoning it in, be specific about what you want.
- Order everything at once. If you call to add an item after the order has been placed, chances are it will delay the delivery.
- Don't forget tip and tax. Everyone should add 10 percent to 15 percent to their order total to cover tax and a tip for the delivery person.
- The person who calls in the order is responsible for checking the order before the delivery person leaves.
- Encourage your co-workers to have exact change. Shun colleagues who never have anything smaller than a $20.