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Socially distant dining to go

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

Socially distant dining is not something I ever dreamt of. But here we are. Once we put together our takeout afternoon teas, we realized that a lot of folks were asking for things to be bagged separately so they could drop off the meal on a friends porch, or questioning how the meal would be presented since they were going to be sitting in their backyard, 6 feet apart. We began thinking of ways that we could adapt our presentation for this new situation.

Obviously, packaging servings individually was the first step. When we catered teas in the past, we would package all the sandwiches together, by type, all the sweets, etc. We rarely served single teas to go, so had to really think through the packaging. We had to find ways to package things so that it would travel well, and stay in place. We figured out which size box was just right for a single serving of afternoon tea, and instead of a large tub of each scone condiment, we used little ones, so each person would have their own.

Before long, however we had requests for presentation-ready meals that would not require plating, so each guest could have a more elegant experience, while the integrity of the food safety would not be breached by the hostess handling their food. We remembered that the Dollar Tree sold some silver and "crystal" trays, so had our shopper pick up a few samples. We found that they work perfectly for our tea service and immediately began selling the new version for an upcharge of $2.50, which more than covers our cost of the tray, paying our shopper and we even throw in one of our prepackaged lemon scented hand towels. We just wrap each tray in plastic wrap, adding the hand towel and box of tea under a layer of wrap, so each guest has everything they need all right there, other than a tea cup and hot water.

We packaged this item in a large pink bakery box for Mother's Day (so mom wouldn't have to do any work) and added other items like chilled soup served in a quilted crystal jelly jar, bottle of sparkling cider and other goodies. It was a beautiful presentation and we sold out the weekend! We used the large bakery box again in the fall for our Bountiful Autumn Tea which included a small fondue pot filled with cheese fondue and a small wooden trays with bread for dipping in the cheese and two larger wooden trays: one with sweets and one with savories, along with a bottle of sparkling cider, a scone with toppings and tea. We sold over 160 of this tea set between October 1 and Thanksgiving. (Wooden trays are from

Shortly after that, we got an order for a small memorial gathering, but they didn't want all the sweets, so we developed our Silver Platter Luncheon, which includes tea sandwiches, gourmet cheese and crackers, grapes, a scone with toppings and a chocolate treat. We also include a little silver (plastic) bowl from Dollar Tree (4 for $1) with our pea salad. Placed right in the middle of the tray, the bowl makes the trays stackable, so easy to send out for groups. This has been a huge hit as well, and we've sold it to a number of large groups to dine separately together, like a private school for their teacher training day and a family birthday open house in a park.

The trays do not stack with our afternoon tea set on them, so we developed the side load box that we are initially having made in our Cottage Garden pattern. We made the box large enough to hold other sides like soup and salad, the box of tea, the hand towel and plastic

utensils if requested, so each guest will have a beautiful box to open with everything safely contained within.

We have also designed tiered stands for a more traditional afternoon tea presentation that is portable. We use our paperboard tier for both our most expensive and elaborate special occasion tea ($50 price range) and a simpler tea for two. In addition to a beautiful floral patterned cover, we have designed both an all-occasion teal toile wildflower and a charming Christmas tea themed cover. We can also produce custom covers with your own logo or motif.

Our tea service for two, called the English Picnic Tea also includes our pretty box filled with paper plates, plastic silver colored cutlery wrapped in a napkin, and two paper cups with lids that we can fill with hot water if the guest would like, so they can add their tea filter sacs and have a lovely tea right away. This has been a very popular item, at $75 for the two servings.

Please share your ideas for ways to make to-go meals special in the comments section.

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