3 Ways to Transform Your Workplace Café into a Vibrant Asset

Published on : 12/2/19
  • Creating a contemporary food space will make employees feel valued, acting as a draw for new talent and helping to retain current staff.

    More than ever, employers need to know and act on the factors that make working for their organization appealing in order to win the battle for talent from their competitors. A major consideration, beyond pay and benefits, is creating a workplace which inspires, engages and ultimately improves the productivity of the workforce.


    Food is a critical workplace amenity, identified as ‘essential’ or ‘important’ by over 70% of employees in Sodexo’s Global Workplace Study. But new trends are reshaping the traditional onsite café. “People are working, collaborating and consuming differently,” says Adrian Evans, Food Transformation Director at Sodexo. “The happiest, most productive and thriving workplaces are not just responding to, but leading this change. It’s organizations with agile and flexible offerings that will meet these evolving standards. The vision needs to be contemporary food served in inspiring spaces.”


    Companies need to understand this evolution in order to attract talent and support their employees. Yet when it comes to the workplace food services, some are falling behind. According to Leesman’s global survey of 250,000 employees, less than half (48.9%) are satisfied with their workplace restaurant and less than two-thirds (62%) are satisfied with the tea, coffee and other refreshment facilities.


    There is a clear opportunity for business leaders to listen to the changing needs of their workforce. For many companies, this means providing a contemporary food space that serves as a respite for employees during their busy workday, contributes to improved productivity through better nutrition, and allows organizations to build a sense of community and engagement.


    Thinking about upgrading your workplace food experience? Here are 3 ways to get started:


    1. Provide contemporary food that aligns with employee expectations


    People are becoming more discerning when it comes to food and drink. Not only are employees increasingly aware of sustainability and the origin of ingredients, they also expect a greater variety of options and they want to be inspired by different, exciting flavors.


    A Sodexo study in the UK & Ireland reflects this shift, with over half (56%) of those surveyed wanting access to a greater variety of food choices at work. The study also found that standards are high—84% of employees believe their work restaurant should offer the same or better variety than outside dining options.


    On top of more variety, today’s health-conscious workers want access to nutritious foods that help them stay on track with their wellness goals. Yet many employees struggle to find healthy options at work. Employers should take the opportunity to champion better eating habits that boost productivity. By making it simpler for busy workers to access nutritious, brain-boosting foods, companies can make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of their workforce.


    73% of employees ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ that their organization should provide healthy food at work.


    Sodexo's Global Workplace Study


    2.    Provide all-day food options


    Time pressures and variable working patterns are challenging the traditional 12pm-2pm lunchtime, with a set timeframe proving too restrictive during work days. Eating habits are also changing. Not everyone wants to have three main meals per day, with some people choosing to eat little and often in order to maintain energy levels during long shifts at work.


    Because of this evolution, employees want more flexibility in when and where they have meals, and they expect workplace restaurants to offer a range of different foods throughout the day. But when the workplace café is only open during limited windows, employees must either bring food from home or head outside the office at a time that’s convenient.


    By extending café operating hours, workplaces can boost both employee satisfaction and food service utilization. Having the food services available all day also removes the stress of dashing to the restaurant before it closes and gives people greater flexibility to do their jobs.


    82% of employees say it’s ‘essential’ or ‘important’ for them to be able to eat or snack whenever they want.


    Sodexo’s Global Workplace Study


    3.    Create a multi-purpose food space


    Today’s employees expect their workplace to include interactive, vibrant areas where they can socialize with colleagues or have informal meetings. Gensler’s 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey reflects this shift, noting that “the best amenity strategies prioritize anywhere working, creating hybrid settings that deliver both an amenity and a workspace.”


    But for many organizations, maximizing workspace remains crucial. This is where flexible workplace dining solutions are desirable, because they can double up as cost-effective environments for meetings or catch-ups. These spaces can also provide a welcome change of pace for employees who need time to re-charge during a long workday.


    However, the benefits of a multi-purpose food space go beyond optimizing space usage. Gensler’s research found that an onsite work café ranks higher than a traditional cafeteria, both in terms of employee effectiveness and experience. The survey also revealed that people who sometimes work away from their desks are more effective and report a better experience. Given these findings, for many employers there are opportunities to make their food spaces work harder.


    The average employee only spends 55% of the time at their desks, versus 21% in meeting spaces and 11% in common areas like cafés.


     Knoll, The Workplace Net. Work Report


    Getting started – design with employees in mind


    A modern, flexible and agile workplace dining solution can be a helpful blueprint to guide early discussions. But any new food offering should be designed to satisfy the needs of everyone on site and bring new life to existing food spaces.


    Methodologies that uncover a deeper understanding of employees, such as surveys, interviews, and consumer profiling tools, are essential at every step of the process. For example, Sodexo’s Personix™ tool uses a questionnaire to develop a picture of the psychological profiles at a work site. This analysis shapes the offering and the space design by providing insight into the needs and motivations of the unique employee groups within a given environment.


    The right workplace food offer is also designed to adapt to its customers and their changes in behavior. A flexible approach helps people to stay engaged, inspired and productive in the workplace. It keeps things fresh and shows employees their needs are being listened to.


    “Consumer profiling is critical for us to be able to define the appropriate services. It dictates what’s on the menus. It dictates space; it dictates the type of seating, the materials we might use, the color palette. It’s a really powerful tool.”


    Rachel Permuth, PhD, Global Head of Insight at Sodexo


    The future of food at work is inspiring, vibrant and agile


    Today’s employees are increasingly health and environment conscious when it comes to the food they eat. They also expect greater variety, quality and flexibility from their workplace café. But some companies are no longer keeping up with people’s needs when it comes to the workplace food offer, and employees are noticing.


    Simply put, the modern workplace needs to do more than feed people—it needs to offer inspiring food offers and spaces that enhance the overall employee experience. Companies who understand and respond to this evolution will attract the best talent, support employee wellbeing, and benefit from being seen as an employer-of-choice in a crowded marketplace. 


    Ready to reimagine your workplace food?


    By creating a blend of exciting, nutritious food and contemporary spaces, Sodexo is revolutionizing workplace dining and helping businesses to thrive.