Food 360: The New Workplace Food Landscape

Published on : 7/19/19
  • The new 360° workplace food landscape is reshaping traditional approaches based on clear-cut consumer insights and the big trends transforming the way we work and live.

    The traditional workplace food offering—on-site kitchens providing for on-site employees, at set hours—is one dimensional. For a long time this was enough to satisfy employees. However, as behaviors and perceptions of work have evolved, so have expectations when it comes to food in the workplace and how it supports people during their day. 

    Put simply, people are no longer willing to make compromises when it comes to their food. Employees are used to a new standard of service from consumer brands, and they expect this to be mirrored by their workplace food experience. Gone is the traditional lunch hour. Whether in the office or working remotely, employees want flexible offerings that fit seamlessly into their day. They also want the same level of convenience, choice and access that they expect outside of the office.

    It’s a shift that’s asking competitive organizations to take proactive steps to build a multi-channel, multi-purpose food offering. One that fuels employees and supports the business. This means identifying new opportunities and innovative solutions to drive on-site and off-site food services that meet demand and differentiate the workplace experience.

    Innovative Solutions for Workplace Food 

    Organizations have an opportunity to provide an elevated 360° food experience that enhances what is already available and creates an accessible experience for all. Today’s employees want a greater variety of options both inside and outside the conventional workplace, at all times of the workday. 

    Solutions that support changing workstyles and expectations are always evolving, with emerging innovations bringing new value to employees. Here we explore some of the latest food trends and highlight innovative solutions Sodexo has introduced to bring the new food vision to life for our clients and their people.

    Digital cafes enhance the employee experience

    Today’s employees expect a dining experience that matches or exceeds the seamless digital process provided by many consumer brands. Yet in most workplaces, food service providers are not leveraging the power of digital as extensively as outside food vendors. Digitally enabled food services—from iPad ordering and cashless services to mobile ordering—can streamline and enhance the workplace dining experience.

    One example is Bite+, a fully integrated digital dining experience app. In addition to menus and nutritional information, Bite offers mobile wallet and payment, an integrated rewards program, and the ability to order ahead. Similarly, India’s Zeta app provides a cashless cafeteria solution and mobile pre-ordering, along with digital management of meal benefits.

    Outside vendors increase variety

    According to Sodexo’s Modern Workplace Dining Survey, 27% of employees have skipped a meal because of the lack of variety and 56% would like a greater variety of food at work. For companies who want to enhance their dining options, or for those who don't have an onsite cafe, bringing outside food vendors into the workplace can be an effective solution. 

    Employers can host local restaurants and street food pop-ups for increased variety, choice and employee satisfaction. One example is Fooda, an intelligent platform that curates and schedules restaurants from top brands and local hidden gems specifically for the workplace. The platform gets smarter as it goes, by learning employees’ favorite restaurants.

    Central kitchens deliver a virtual cafeteria

    In workplaces where kitchen facilities aren’t available, employees have traditionally resorted to other options. Sodexo research found that almost two-thirds of employees bring lunch from home and one-in-five go off-site for their food. An on-site meal program lets people make the most of their time. For many workers, the process of leaving the office, getting into their cars, and finding a restaurant is a time-consuming ordeal.

    One solution? A central kitchen. Organizations can enlist external commercial kitchens to create and distribute meals straight to the worksite and customized to each employee’s specifications. For example, EAT Club delivers a main course meal to client premises from “hubs” within a 20-minute radius of client sites. Most food is produced internally or through co-pack partners, providing a virtual cafeteria to companies without the required space/scale.

    Food delivery offers convenience

    Food Insight’s 2019 Food and Health Survey reveals that 57% of the workforce consider convenience to be one of the most important factors when deciding what food to buy. But employees want convenience without sacrificing nutrition, taste or quality. One market which has emerged from this is the food delivery industry, which is forecasted to grow by 3.5% annually over the next few years. In many areas of the world, food from local restaurants can be delivered to your home in under 30 minutes. Other vendors offer delivery of prepared meals that are chilled and then reheated by the consumer. 

    Employers can keep pace with this development by offering comparable food delivery and pre-ordering services. One example is FoodChéri, which allows consumers to order fresh chef-prepared meals that are ready to reheat and consume upon delivery. Employees can have their food delivered to their home or office, which means that virtual workers have access to the same options as in-office workers.

    Smart vending provides 24/7 options

    For many employees, getting the right food when they need it can be a constant struggle. “People are becoming more likely to mix things up according to their own schedule and preferences,” says Adrian Evans, Director of Food Transformation, Sodexo UK and Ireland. “They go to the gym in the morning, then eat breakfast when they come into work. They grab a coffee mid-morning, but in the afternoon as well, and the 3pm slump is no longer remedied by a chocolate bar or confectionary, people want a healthy snack.” 

    Connected or ‘smart’ vending machines put customizable food options at employees’ fingertips and support demand for a variety of healthy ‘grab and go’ products. One innovation in this space is SALLY, an automated salad-making robot stocked with up to 22 fresh ingredients. From the employee standpoint, SALLY means that fresher, healthier options are available any time of day. And there are benefits for the organization as well—employees who eat healthy all day long are 25% more likely to have higher job performance.

    A Food-Fueled Workplace Experience 

    The new 360° workplace food landscape is reshaping traditional approaches based on clear-cut consumer insights and the big trends transforming the way we work and live. It’s also helping organizations bring greater focus to employee wellbeing, productivity and performance.   

    “People are working, collaborating and consuming differently, and the happiest, most productive and thriving workplaces are not just responding to, but leading this change,” explains Adrian. “It’s the organizations with agile and flexible offerings that will meet these evolving standards.” 

    It all boils down to the culture the business wants to create. The modern food offering should not only reflect current trends, it should contribute to an outstanding workplace experience that unlocks the full potential of employees. It’s a holistic approach that strengthens company reputation, drives people performance and positions the business as an employer of choice.

    Looking to Evolve Your Approach to Food at Work?

    Sodexo has spent over 50 years innovating in the Food Services sector, incorporating a holistic approach that doesn’t just deliver food, but an entire experience. We are uniquely placed to understand and translate changing consumer trends into real world solutions for our clients. 

    Sodexo’s Food 360 model brings together key partnerships with food-tech specialists, virtual cafeteria providers and global chefs to create exceptional and customizable food offerings that facilitate convenience, engagement, health and productivity in the workplace.