Vacherin employs an impressive level of detail to ensure that it continues to meet the high standards now set. The caterer has a full-time nutritionist whose job is to provide all kinds of factual information including calorie counters and allergen warnings. The company has even assessed the cooking apparatus and utensils it uses to ensure that it meets those WELL specifications.
Mooney says that staff at 1 St James’s Market are demonstrably more enthused by the new catering service. This is significant, given that the workplace is located in a city with one of the most exciting culinary scenes in the world, with a plethora of local high street food retailers keeping the organisation and Vacherin on their toes. The office café has to compete with an almost limitless range of food in central London, so the challenge is to keep the menu as fresh as possible. To ensure that staff don’t tire of options, for example, Vacherin keeps its range of sandwiches as broad as possible.
Yet, while the menu may be refreshed on a regular basis, Mooney stresses the importance of keeping some things consistent. “People need to know they can come back to the café and have their main course and a side that costs X, which helps them to budget,” he says. The most recent change to the food offer is the introduction of a combined meal deal, which allows the organisation to serve vegetable accompaniments with all meals, as well as lower the total cost for staff.
There is an old adage that says the kitchen is the heart of every home. Mooney, however, prefers to frame it in more modern terms: “The café drives other behaviours within the organisation.”
When The Crown Estate relocated to 1 St James’s Market, it moved into a totally agile workspace. Approximately 250 employees have access to only 190 fixed desks, but there are a further 210 alternative workstations including project tables, collaboration spaces, furniture booths, a library, and traditional meeting rooms. The café also serves as a focal point for the organisation’s new workplace strategy.
“We have a big communal table that seats 20 people in our café,” says Mooney. “People will come and sit down and talk to each other. That is the driver. It’s about having a change in environment. It’s about meeting other people from across the organisation and having an informal networking opportunity every lunchtime.”
Likewise, the recent decision to lower the price of coffee not only increased the volume of sales but also encouraged staff to change certain behaviours. People are now far more likely to grab a coffee with a colleague and use the café for informal meetings.
Though the WELL Standard is an ongoing process – a feature that initially attracted The Crown Estate to it – the success of the move is undeniable. Leesman, the employee experience benchmarking tool, carried out pre- and post-occupancy surveys with the property company’s staff. Given the data from the initial survey, The Crown Estate managed to increase its score by 25 points.
For Vacherin, the success of its catering service at 1 St James’s Market is testament to the power of food in the workplace. “Businesses have a duty to actively encourage their employees to change their eating habits, in order to have a healthy impact on the overall wellbeing of the workforce,” says Kelly. “Paying attention to the wellbeing of employees not only increases their overall happiness but actually has a return on investment for the company.”
Vacherin is now busy applying the many lessons it has learned from the WELL Standard to new and existing customers. “Adhering to these practices, designers on our new contracts meet with our catering team to negotiate and collaborate on how we can elevate the benefit of the food we serve to clients and tenants,” adds Kelly. “The workplace is the perfect place to raise awareness and transform mindsets and behaviours towards healthy eating and nutrition.”
For The Crown Estate and Vacherin, at least, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.