Best Last Minute Birthday Lunch Ideas at Work

We’ve all been there. It’s Thursday morning, you get into the office, grab your coffee, and check your calendar. Oh shoot! Today is your co-workers birthday. You knew it was coming but you haven’t planned anything!

Time to take action.

Put on your planning hat and don’t forget…

Some of the best birthday work lunches are last minute surprises.
Here’s how to plan one.

A few things to consider before throwing your birthday lunch:

  • See if it’s appropriate for your office culture. You may have to ask around with co-workers and management, because you don’t want to plan something against policy or conflicting with meeting times
  • Don’t be repetitive. If your work team does the same birthday tradition for everyone then go with that, otherwise let your creative juices flow and plan something a little more unique for your birthday co-worker.
  • Consider getting the guest of honor on board. Some people don’t love to be surprised, and the birthday person may prefer to be part of the planning process.

On The Birthday

A Birthday Surprise Lunch Break at a Restaurant

A birthday surprise lunch break at a restaurant is often better than the one thrown in your office kitchen. It’s exciting, special, and you know it will be delicious! It’s also easy to plan:

  • Find a restaurant with a private room or quiet table where you can talk without being overheard.
  • Check out their menu online. Make sure you order food that the birthday person likes and make note of any food allergies.
  • Pick your favorite dishes for everyone to share and make reservations for brunch, lunch or dinner!

Skip Lunch and Go Straight to Dessert!

If you’re someone who is often too busy to eat lunch or has a lot of work to do on a regular basis, then this option can be particularly ideal! Grab some candles and enjoy some time with your coworkers, plus you’ll still have time to get your tasks done that day.

  • Bake your own cake. You can make a delicious chocolate cake in minutes using just cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, eggs, hot water and butter or oil. Or use a boxed mix from the store.
  • Order in cupcakes. Many bakeries will deliver cupcakes within one hour if ordered in advance. Contact yours to see if they offer this service and place an order for the day of their birthday—or even better, surprise them by ordering them when everyone else is away from their desk so it’s not obvious that something special is coming.
  • Bring in cake from a fancy bakery. If you know that there’s a bakery near your office that makes exquisite cakes and pastries, consider ordering one for the entire office for the day of their birthday. This way everyone can enjoy it without having to leave the office! The only thing left will be figuring out how much each person should pay since they all enjoyed the dessert together (unless you want to cover it yourself).

Just Drinks!

Does the birthday person sip a beer, or love a glass of wine? Maybe they’re all about stronger stuff like gin and tonic or tequila with lime. If you can find out what their drink of choice is, bring that! Or have everyone pitch in a few dollars to buy them their favorite bottle. You could also go with something less-alcoholic, like a six pack of seltzer or hard cider.

Just make sure to ask around before you buy anything—you don’t want to get something that no one else likes. And remember—don’t forget the glasses!

Week Before The Birthday

If you end up having a little more time to plan the lunch, consider one of these options:


One of the best last-minute birthday lunch ideas at work is to organize a potluck. It’s great for big teams and even better if you’re short on time.

Invite everyone – The more people, the merrier!

A good theme makes a potluck more exciting. As an example, we once did an “Avocado and Tomato” potluck where everyone had to bring something with one or both of these ingredients. It was delicious!

Next, make sure you don’t have too many salads and no dessert (or vice versa). The best way to do this is by assigning which category each person will be bringing their food from. Do this in advance so you don’t end up with three chocolate cakes!

It’s also important that you have enough food for everybody. You don’t want your colleague having only a single slice of pizza for lunch when they’re hungry from skipping breakfast earlier in the morning because they were rushing to get their kids ready for school. The best way to prevent this is by doing a headcount beforehand so you can estimate how much food needs to be prepared or ordered in advance – there’s nothing worse than having half of your team go home hungry!

Finally, if other coworkers aren’t able to cook or bring anything with them then ordering takeout might be another option. This way everyone will still enjoy themselves without feeling like there isn’t enough around the table for everyone else too!

Birthday Party in a Box

For this one, you have a lot of freedom. You can start with a simple cardboard box and wrap it in wrapping paper, or buy a gift bag and fill it with lunch items. It’s also nice to include a card, so that your co-worker knows who the box is from and why they’ve received it. This idea works well because you can tailor everything to the recipient’s tastes. For example, if you know your co-worker loves Chinese food, pack them some wontons or noodles into the box along with some chopsticks and fortune cookies for an authentic feel. Or, if your co-worker prefers something more American-style like hamburgers or pizza slices, then by all means throw those in a gift box (along with all of the necessary condiments) to make their day! If you really want to get creative then include napkins as well.

Thoughtful Non-Food Related Ideas

Balloon Bouquet

Balloons are a great last minute birthday idea. They’re festive and fun, and they come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Balloons can be bought at places like party supply stores or supermarkets, making them easy to find. You can even order balloons online for quick delivery or pick-up. One of the best things about balloons is that they are easy to store and transport, making them convenient to have on hand for any last minute birthday celebrations!

Surprise Them in the Parking Lot

If you’re really bad at remembering birthdays, there’s a chance that this last-minute birthday lunch idea will be your first idea. Okay, so it’s more like an after-work surprise than a lunch, but why not make the most of being caught off guard and do something truly memorable? Here are some ways to pull off a parking lot birthday surprise:

  • Get everyone together in the parking lot
  • Decorate their car
  • Put gifts inside the car
  • Send them off with songs or cheering
  • You can even ask everyone to honk their cars’ horns as they drive past

Send a Funky Birthday eCard

Look for a card that fits the person’s personality, interests, or sense of humor. Once you’ve found the perfect ecard, navigate to the ‘send card’ or ‘add recipient’ section of the website.

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