Employers and employees alike are waking up to the benefits of healthy eating at work. But how are caterers responding to this growing awareness?
The 2017 Food Service Management Market Report from the British Hospitality Association reports that suppliers are helping to drive wellbeing at work by reducing the amount of sugar and salt in their offerings and providing healthier alternative meals. We asked some leading caterers how they’re dealing with growing expectations around healthy eating at work.
NATIONAL OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, AUTOGRAPH – INTERSERVE’S CATERING BRAND
Employees want varied menus that offer nutritional value while still being exciting and packed full of flavour. It’s not just about what employees are eating but also how, with the look and feel of workplace dining areas needing to keep up with popular trends just as much as menus.
Thinking holistically about catering in the context of the broader workplace experience can drive benefits, not just for the workforce but for the health of customers’ businesses too. A nutritious and balanced diet can help employees remain mentally alert and engaged, which in turn can lead to significant benefits for productivity and performance.
Facilities professionals should take note. Understanding and responding to the needs of employees in the workplace is vital to helping customers attract and retain the best talent, as well as supporting people to achieve their best at work. Learning from consumer-facing industries, there are some simple steps that facilities and catering teams can take to ensure that their food offering and the dining environment meets employees’ expectations and helps them stay healthy and engaged.
Over the last two years Interserve has been looking at how the workplace experience can be used to boost employee and business performance. What we’ve found is the importance of recognising that, at the most simplistic level, an employee is just another customer and the workplace experience should be built around their needs.
The same is true with catering and healthy eating. Employee demands and desires are being informed and driven by changes on the high street, so we need to take a similar approach at work, treating them as ‘workplace consumers’.
Catering in the workplace should be focused on making healthy eating fun and interesting, rather than forcing the workforce to behave in a certain way. One of the ways we have been doing this is by constantly refreshing workplace menus to keep them exciting, just as high street café chains regularly renew their offering. We have an emphasis on ‘pop-up’ options using fresh and real ingredients to avoid menu fatigue. At the same time, these menus also offer healthy but convenient ‘grab and go’ options in recognition of the greater flexibility required for modern working.
Eating out on the high street is an enjoyable experience and it should be at work too. Facilities teams should concentrate on moving away from low-fat or low-calorie options to focus on superfoods – making positive additions to meals rather than taking things away.
Alongside better nutrition, a smarter, more holistic approach to workplace catering can also play a bigger part in supporting high-performance workplaces by fostering collaboration. Eating is as much a social activity as a dietary one and, managed in the right way, it can play an important role in driving desired organisational changes.
Our workplace research has shown the performance benefits that come from promoting friendships at work, supporting cross-team working and knowledge sharing and generally promoting greater employee happiness. Dining areas can be a good starting point for companies looking to boost social cohesion as an important place for people to meet new colleagues.
If this isn’t happening already, what barriers could be preventing it? Creating interesting and healthy menus ultimately will encourage employees to make use of workplace dining facilities rather than looking outside. Simple changes such as putting in place larger tables can have a big impact on human psychology, encouraging employees to sit with people they haven’t met before. It sounds simple, but this aspect of eating is often overlooked.
By accounting for both the nutritional and social elements of employee diets, facilities teams can have a dramatic and positive impact on their customers’ businesses – helping the workforce to stay happy and healthy, and driving overall performance in the process.
HEAD OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS, SODEXO UK & IRELAND
The value and impact of nutrition in our workplaces is enormous and is all-too-often under-estimated by employers. As we all know, food is brain fuel and without it we simply cannot function at our best.
At Sodexo we continue to build on our health and wellbeing philosophy, making sure everyone puts health and wellness at the top of the agenda for themselves, their family, friends and colleagues. We recognise that our customers are all different, with differing nutritional needs and preferences. We all have our likes and dislikes, and as such our restaurants focus on promoting simple ways to achieve better living that enhances overall wellness.
You can do this by striving to create the right food experience where customers find it easy to choose the healthy option. We do this by making these options appealing, colourful, tasty and good value for money. Our chefs create foods that are contemporary, tasty and exciting.
A key focus for our chefs at present is to add more greens to encourage and support our consumers to achieve their ‘five-a-day’ portions of fruit and vegetables. Through a carefully selected mix of ingredients, we deliver delicious dishes that are nutritionally analysed to meet a clear set of nutrition guidelines which control the level of calories, fats, salt and sugar in each dish. We also consider where healthier items are positioned on shelves and counters, ensuring there is a good balance and choice for our customers.
We have developed this approach by gathering valuable consumer insight. Last year we published the findings of our research with knowledge workers, which looked at workplace factors that impact productivity. The results showed that more than half of the respondents (53 per cent) thought that the quality of food in the workplace is important, but only a third (37 per cent) felt well catered for by their organisation, and a similar number (36 per cent) thought that their organisation cared about their wellbeing.
The wellbeing of our customers is paramount. By working with our clients, we are encouraging them to realise the important role they can play in increasing nutritional awareness, and to champion healthy eating habits that can boost their employees’ productivity.