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Appetite for change

But what happens when the FM doesn’t have recourse to an outside caterer? How can they encourage healthier eating? Says Vicky Thorp, Head of Facilities Management at CLSH Management Limited: “As an FM who has no restaurants or cafés, this does not allow us the opportunity to have so much of an influence. Healthy eating costs money, but there are ways of putting fresh fruit through the service charge and offering this in communal areas.

“There is also the option of going and speaking with local food outlets and building a relationship by finding out if they would be able to offer discounts on the healthier foods, and then promote this throughout our properties. This also increases local engagement and community spirit to ensure we are all working towards a common goal.”

Staff tea points and restaurants are also increasingly important in a changing workplace. The trend towards agile and part-time working means workplace restaurants have evolved into active social hubs that help to improve productivity, collaboration and communication within organisations.

There are also fresh alternatives to the fixed workplace canteen of yesteryear. Alan Hutchinson recalls that when relocating offices four years ago, it was decided that due to the amount of choice available on the building’s doorstep, the firm wouldn’t be providing a staff restaurant. Staff would instead be encouraged to take lunchbreaks outside to explore the local area, support local businesses and be part of the local community.

Over time, it was noticed that providing staff with a place to meet and engage within the office was an opportunity not fully appreciated. “Through a number of initiatives,” he says, “we have now introduced pop-up lunches for staff. The menu is themed, with an emphasis on healthy nutritional ingredients. We also have an excellent wellbeing programme for staff, and our caterers contribute during the regular wellbeing events by creating healthy lunch pots at a ‘better than high street’price.”

Stephen Bursi, Facilities Lead at BAE Systems (Operations), argues that understanding the employee and visitor demographic is key in helping FMs to anticipate customer preferences. This, he says, “will help in their understanding of current eating fads and whether the organisation’s catering facilities can cope with a change to its offering without existing contractual terms and conditions getting in the way.”

He points out other important considerations. Are there fast food
and grab ’n’ go outlets in the vicinity which colleagues might prefer to use? What is the organisation’s overall attitude towards providing healthy options? Has a site catering customer survey been conducted? Can external heathy food providers be encouraged to provide pop-up services alongside the established offerings to test take-up? Is the catering environment appealing to users?

Appointing a caterer who can help advise on nutrition is also a good idea, as Tony Winterbottom, Business Director at Atalian Servest Food Co, explains. “Our in-house nutritionist is actively involved in the promotion of healthy eating across our entire business. Internally and externally, all of our menus offer the ability to consume at least five fruit or vegetables a day. In addition, we’ve reduced saturated fats, including the use of healthier oils for frying, added leaner meats, and reduced fat alternatives for items such as cheese and mayonnaise.”

Alan Hutchinson feels strongly that caterers also have to add something extra, above and beyond the brands, to maintain a competitive edge. This may include ensuring prices are benchmarked against the high street (and advertising the comparison), educating people as they eat by explaining the healthy options available, and aligning the food service with the employer’s own corporate values and aims – for instance, as part of a wellbeing programme.

He adds: “Customers are much more informed, so you need to meet that level of knowledge with varied menus. Cater for the comfortable; don’t forget there are always those that will always want the same things, so keep the basics available. This means not going too far with the healthy alternatives – you have to try to please everyone. And finally, ask what people want regularly, and publish the results and what has been done to reflect those results.”

Back at LSBU they are starting to explore the benefits of providing a specifically healthy eating-focused and branded outlet next to the sports facilities. For LSBU, and hopefully for other FM-led organisations, the future is clearly healthier.

About Sarah OBeirne

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