If anyone has been monitoring the evolution of the local business lunch more closely than Alissa Leinonen, we haven’t found that person. When Leinonen launched Gourmondo, Seattle’s leading catering and box lunch company, in 1996, it was a 470-square-foot café in Pike Place Market. Now, her team delivers more than 10,000 box lunches (ranging in price from $14.95 to $19.95) per month—to 150 Seattle and Eastside businesses—and hopes to hit the $10 million mark this year.
Leinonen says that in the past 10 years, particularly, she’s seen a significant shift in how people eat lunch at work. The midday meal has gone from an hourlong luxury to a mad dash for sustenance, inhaled on the go—or at the desk—in order to shorten the workday and return home to family (or simply get more stuff done in a day).
The role of her food in fueling frantic corporate workers is very different than the role food usually plays as a social occasion. “Our customers have become much more particular with what they want,” she says, citing the need to offer vegan, gluten-free and paleo options.
Dietary restrictions that were once considered a food trend are now just a part of the food culture here, she says. Chef Tom Black (formerly of The Barking Frog) has come up with nearly 40 different options to accommodate customers. And, Leinonen points out, almost all of them can be eaten literally on the go.