Robert Millar, Operations Director at Blue Apple Catering, looks at the ever more prominent issue of staff wellbeing in the workplace and how a contract catering offering can help to make a positive impact in this area
According to The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, what we eat and drink has a direct impact on physical health, mental wellbeing and our overall performance in the workplace. Given that close to a third of our daily calorie intake is consumed while at work, it is therefore paramount that employees be given every opportunity to choose healthy, balanced options wherever possible.
Choosing a healthier diet can increase concentration, reduce stress and provide a welcome boost to energy levels, and this is a desirable outcome – particularly when the statistics are analysed in terms of the effects of a poor diet on productivity levels. A 2017 study (Britain’s Healthiest Workplace) developed by health insurer VitalityHealth, in partnership with the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer, showed that each year a staggering 27.5 days of productive time per employee is being lost due to sickness and underperformance.
One of the key contributing factors was poor nutrition, and when the monetary translation equates to £73 billion of lost productivity per year it is little wonder that more and more employers are looking into ways to effect positive change in this area.
Contract catering can foster a healthier workplace environment
Having a catering facility on-site can make a huge difference in terms of employees choosing healthy and nutritionally balanced options. If we take companies that are based on business parks or in more isolated rural areas, for example, they can be removed from the wider choices available to those in town and city centre locations and therefore staff may be reliant upon food trucks or sandwich delivery services that can often be limited where healthy options are concerned. Providing options in-house can eliminate that issue entirely.
Even those that have access to the high street may struggle to find what they’re looking for on a regular basis, particularly if they have specific dietary requirements and would like to have some level of variety in the choices they make. Nobody wants to eat the same thing day in day out, and here a contract caterer can also pay dividends.
Through working closely in partnership with a business, a contract caterer should be able to tune into the food and beverage requirements of its workforce and create an offering that not only provides balance but that also gives flexibility. Of course it is nice to have a treat once in a while and those options should always be available – after all, the objective is not to lecture or dictate to people what they should be eating. However, there should also be a variety of well balanced, nutritionally sound options on offer at all times to encourage customers to make healthier choices.
A symbiotic relationship
By becoming a part of an organisation, contract caterers have an opportunity to tailor an offering that will work in harmony with its workforce. Menus and grab and go options can be designed to fit in with the ebbs and flows of a business, and through working with expert nutritionists and engaging professional chefs with a passion for fresh ingredients, an offering that appeals to all can be developed.
Our own experience at Blue Apple has shown that opportunities to effect positive change exist in even the most obvious of places. For example, in taking over a site recently it became clear that staff were missing out on breakfast before they started their working day as the previous operator had assumed that the entire workforce commenced its day at 9am. However, the teams were often working flexible hours and upon arrival after 10am found that no food or beverage options were available to them outside of vending machines (which often provided little more than crisps and chocolate bars).
Something as simple as adapting opening hours therefore had a positive impact on productivity, as those staff members were able to purchase fresh, wholesome meals or snacks at a time that was convenient to their own working schedules. In addition, the fact that staff were aware that their employers had considered this fact and adapted accordingly to accommodate had a positive impact on morale.
A place of calm in a hectic environment
Another positive aspect of an in-house catering facility is that it can provide a space that employees can retreat to quickly and easily. Many working in high pressure jobs find it hard to leave their desks at the best of times, let alone leave the building to have a bite to eat, but by providing a flexible space in the immediate vicinity it is far more likely they will make use of it.
Increasingly at board room level, senior executives now recognise that attracting talented employees means taking care of their mental wellbeing, nutritional and physical health and that productivity and job satisfaction are dependent on these. The office design, therefore, also has to allow for flexible working environments and hours.
Employees, and especially millennials, who have a different set of values and beliefs, are and will be demanding a healthier working environment, which includes a high-quality food service offer as a given. They want a dining environment not only for food and drink – they want the flexibility to work there as well. They want to eat when they’re hungry and not necessarily at “lunchtime” and to be given the flexibility to be ‘unchained’ from their desks from time to time.
An in-house catering facility can provide that oasis of calm or change of scenery if the design has been considered effectively – creating a space that can not only be used for breakfast lunch and dinner, but also as a meeting space, a conference area or simply as a place to grab 10 minutes away from a screen with a coffee.
Leave the balancing act to the professionals
Businesses looking to take care of the wellbeing of their workforces are rarely experts in the fields of health and nutrition, and creating a food service offering that caters to all is a balancing act that carries considerable responsibility. By engaging with a specialist contract caterer – preferably one with experience across a wide range of organisations and industries – that responsibility can be removed from a business and placed in the hands of professionals.
For us at Blue Apple, we always aim to deliver personalised solutions. Be it in the food offer or looking at the bigger picture in terms of design, we put a real focus on providing a service that can help the performance of our client’s business. In all of our restaurants our new grab and go range includes nutritionally analysed salads, and there will always be a healthy option within our Healthy Highlight range.
In addition, we maintain high levels of continuous improvement where health and wellbeing are concerned by constantly sourcing new ingredients, re-engineering our food offering and ensuring our chefs are trained effectively to reflect the ever-changing trends in this area. As the saying goes, ‘you are what you eat’ and by providing the very best for your employees in the workplace you will certainly reap the rewards.