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Top Food Menu Ideas For Your Next Company Cookout

Company cookouts can benefit employee morale, working relationships, loyalty and the company at large. But first, nail the menu.

Food sets the tone in any social gathering, especially a summer company cookout. It’s more than just fuel for the body — it represents personal taste, interest, and tradition. Two employees from the same region who barely know each other can go home as best friends after sharing a meal they grew up enjoying. You should put a lot of thought into the menu to ensure everyone has a blast.


The Best Food for Company Cookouts

Any protein you can throw on a grill is good to bring. The barbecue style dictates the appropriate sauces, sides, toppings, and drinks because breaking tradition is a high-risk, low-reward endeavor.

Planning a large company cookout? If so, a caterer will likely be hired to prepare, cook, and serve food, manage logistics, and cleanup. There’s little pressure on attendees to bring anything. However, letting employees smoke meat is a good idea to nail the cookout vibe.

Grilling is a popular hobby. Your company may have a couple of pitmasters who will happily oversee the smoker whil coworkers enjoy the menu.


10 Company Cookout Food Ideas

Finalizing the menu is fun, but challenging. There are countless options, but you can’t choose randomly. Answer these questions before finalizing a food menu:

  • Is there a theme?
  • What’s the budget?
  • Which cuisines do local caterers offer?
  • How many courses will be served?
  • What type of cuisines do most attendees prefer?
  • Do your employees have dietary restrictions such as: lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, diabetes, allergies, vegan diet, organic, grass-fed and antibiotic-free, kosher and halal, etc.?
  • Does the venue offer amenities for grilling?

The majority generally wins, but it pays to be considerate of individual dietary restrictions to ensure everyone is comfortable during the event. Some employees many feel conflicted about menu items — like a vegan who prefers not to see meat being grilled or eaten, so consider openly offering opt-out options.

After answering the above questions, if yo plan to serve a three-course meal, consider these then food ideas.


Rarely do these appetizers miss the mark.

1. Cookout Salad Ideas

Easy-to-make refreshing salads are sure to impress your employees. One is enough, but consider more options if your guest list is extensive with various dietary requests. Salads will also keep attendees from feeling too full later in the day. Excellent no-cook recipes include:

  • Caprese salad
  • Caesar salad
  • Cucumber-chickpea salad with feta-mint vinaigrette
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Harvest greens salad
  • Marinated tomato and herb salad
  • Mediterranean pasta salad
  • Pineapple-pepper slaw
  • Strawberry-spinach salad

2. Cookout Appetizer Options

Your safest bet is a bread basket. Yet, if you want something savory, consider:

  • Antipasti
  • Bacon brie crescent wreath
  • Chicken tenders
  • Italian sub squares
  • French dip squares
  • Fried mozzarella triangles
  • Ham and cheese pinwheels
  • Mini grilled cheese sandwich
  • Mini Italian sausage skewers
  • Pigs in a blanket
  • Pizza rolls

Thinking of something sweet? You can’t go wrong with:

  • Apple focaccia with blue cheese and herbs
  • Cranberry brie bites
  • Earl Grey cinnamon rolls
  • Goat cheese and caramelized onion bites

For healthy alternatives, these will disappear fast:

  • Alfredo asparagus bundles
  • Asparagus flatbread
  • Brie and green bean bundles
  • Cheesy green bean mushroom tart
  • Eggplant Parmesan sliders
  • Spinach-artichoke buns
  • Spinach puffs
  • Tomato bruschetta

It’s wise to hire a single caterer to prepare multiple starters to avoid logistical headaches. Serving the first course on time matters so attendees can fuel up when they arrive and keep the event energy high from the get-go.



Smokey goodies are the star of any cookout, but you don’t have to stop there.

3. Grilled Proteins

Steaks, hot dogs, burgers, chicken and ribs are American barbecue staples. For seafood lovers, grouper, halibut, red snapper, salmon and sea bass are great on the grate. Grilling them during the cookout can create the perfect ambiance.

The difficulty of cooking these foods depends on the barbecue style. The big four are Carolina, Kansas City, Memphis and Texas. Lesser-known, but just as hearty regional styles include Alabama, Kentucky, Santa Maria and St. Louis.

There’s also vegan barbecue. Common plant-based meat substitutes are tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, jackfruit and assorted veggies. A smoke flavor gun can make these vegan-friendly options savory and mouthwatering.

Making companion dry rubs, sauces and sides and grilling meat perfectly can take several hours. The venue may not be entirely available during the smoking process. Cooking proteins at home and bringing them to the party can be highly stressful, so check with your volunteers if they’re up to the task.

4. Pasta

Want a perfect alternative to grilled meat? Pasta fits the bill. Consider these wholesome favorites:

  • Chicken carbonara rigatoni
  • Chicken Limone
  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Country-style rigatoni



Put a bow on your full-course meal with these desserts.

5. Cake Jars

These tasty treats, topped with seasonal fruit, are perfect for summer and painless to serve.

6. Cobbler

Peach is the most popular variety, but a blend of summer stone fruits and berries takes the cobbler to the next level.

7. Shortcake

You only need one strawberry shortcake layer to spread bliss throughout your company cookout after a savory main course.

8. Pie

Nothing says summer better than a slice of creamy lemon pie. Blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream is a satisfying alternative if you prefer something jammy.

9. Cookie Bars

Anyone with a sweet tooth wouldn’t say no to delicious s’mores cookie bars.

10. Popsicles

Fruity popsicles can steal the show. Let creamy lemon raspberry or strawberry banana be the flavor of your summer company cookout.



You can’t throw a cookout without beer, wine and bourbon-based cocktails. You should also offer soda, root beer, spicy ginger beer, lemonade or iced tea.

It may seem like a good idea to offer coffee to help tipsy attendees who may need to become more alert, but it can backfire. Caffeine and alcohol don’t always mix well because they can cause and worsen heartburn, so consider lodging and transportation options to keep your employees safe after a night of drinking.


Create the Perfect Company Cookout Menu

It’s impossible to please everyone when finalizing your cookout menu, but you can be mindful of every attendee. If you know the foods your employees love and try to avoid, you can create enough variety to make all partygoers salivate.


Beth Rush is the career and finance editor at Body+Mind. She has 5+ years of experience writing about time management strategies and the power of human design to reveal entrepreneurial potential. She also writes about using the emotion of awe to activate our leadership prowess.


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