Catering for new tastes at work

Half a century ago, the factory whistle and office clock signalled the start of the lunch break for workers to leave their lathes and desks, and head for the factory or office canteen.

Today, automation, desktop computers, mobile devices and flexible working have revolutionised both the workplace and the way we eat at work, requiring caterers to respond while still consistently delivering convenience and value for money to the corporate client and café customer.

Organisations are under pressure to keep down costs and make the most effective use of their real estate, the impact of which has been felt from the tea room to the boardroom and from the self-service food bar to the full-service restaurant.

FFB_compass_2Despite these pressures, employers still recognise that a healthy and happy workforce is a productive one and providing high-quality, tasty food is a vital ingredient in running a successful business.

Eurest is the core workplace catering brand of leading caterer Compass Group UK & Ireland. It has been among the most nimble when it comes to meeting the demands of its clients, from providing foodservice at the trendy head office of a fashion retailer to the depots of a busy city bus company.

It has been at the vanguard of innovation, reacting to the constraints of return-on-investment targets, and the shift towards flexible working and the shortening of the average British worker’s lunch break to just 34 minutes.

Trends such as hot-desking, providing breakout areas for informal meetings and eating “al desko”, as some in the industry call it, have altered the nature of dining at work.

“However short the break, whether it is for lunch or a quick coffee, there is plenty of research that shows workers perform better when they are able to meet up, socialise and collaborate, around food or drink,” says Andy Barry, managing director, business and industry, at Compass Group.

“It improves team engagement, ideas generation, leads to higher productivity and reduces absenteeism.”

With 70 years’ experience, Eurest serves more than three million customers a day, at over 1,500 sites, from barista coffee bars and staff restaurants to formal dining, pouring more hot drinks than most high street coffee chains.

Workers perform better when they are able to meet up, socialise and collaborate, around food or drink

The business food offer is always evolving to meet changing consumer demands, such as the younger generation who want flexibility and tend to graze rather than sit down to eat at a fixed time.

Just as food-to-go is part of our everyday eating habits, it is now firmly on the menu at work for millions of people, happy to grab a sandwich, a wrap or a noodle pot to make the most of their precious time.

The company’s new unmanned format called 24 – a mini convenience store, available 24/7 – has been taken up by more than 40 organisations. For some with limited space it is the sole on-site foodservice offer, while elsewhere it sits alongside a more traditional full-service cafeteria.

There has also been a massive cultural shift towards healthy eating across all types of cuisine. Being part of the world’s largest food services provider, Eurest is aware of the role it can play to educate people in making healthy choices in relation to food. The company has embraced the use of technology; a great example is that every one of its recipes is available on the My Fitness Pal app.

Additionally, it is exploring using the workplace to teach customers about eating and cooking, offering the ingredients and recipes to make a meal when they get home through a “buy now, eat later offer”.

Mr Barry concludes: “We’re looking at how we can use these spaces to build communities, teach, and educate people about healthy eating and cooking, offering more convenience in the workplace.”

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