Love of Food: a starting point for a better life

Published on : 9/10/19
  • When it comes to quality of life, food is often at the center for individuals including professionals, students, medical workers or people enjoying leisurely activities. A good meal not only satisfies us as food lovers, but also refreshes and inspires us to be more efficient and connected. It also helps us to make social connections.

    By Martin Boden, Sodexo Greater China President


    I came across an old Chinese expression saying: “Food is the number 1 necessity of people”. This shows the importance of “eating” in Chinese society. It also reflects my experience in China and the passion Chinese people have for their food. No matter where we are from in the world, food represents everything about our lives including our friends, family and memories.

    When it comes to quality of life, food is often at the center for individuals including professionals, students, medical workers or people enjoying leisurely activities. A good meal not only satisfies us as food lovers, but also refreshes and inspires us to be more efficient and connected. It also helps us to make social connections.

    The journey of Sodexo started with food in 1966 and although we have become a significant facilities services company around the world, food has been and will always be in our DNA. It’s what has given us such a unique knowledge of consumers in so many cultures all around the world.

    Consumers are changing

    Sodexo first entered the Chinese market in 1995 (again through food!) and started offering catering services as its first venture - we have since experienced the speed of economic development in China in the past 24 years. Consumers have also changed significantly with the increase in living standards and a broader set of needs and requirements. We have continued, thanks to our wonderful employees, to adapt our understanding and insights about Chinese consumers, enabling us to provide customised offers and an enjoyable dining experience for them.

    We have studied food consumption of the referenced “white-collar” food market in China through qualitative and quantitative research. It focused on the behaviors and habits of these identified groups at staff restaurants and in the general food consumption environment.  We found four different types of white-collar consumers:

    • Taste Seeker: They love delicacy and are willing to try different and fresh food. They are ready to invest time and money in food consumption. Their biggest motivation is to satisfy the desire for superb food.
    • Health Seeker: They pursue fitness and balanced meals in their daily lives, with a strong awareness of a healthy diet and nutrition. They strictly control their food intake.
    • Pragmatic Diner: They are easygoing about most things and are never choosy about food. Simplicity and convenience are their focus and a balanced meal with beverages (soft drinks or soups) would be enough to meet their demands.
    • Multiple Demander: Emerging middle-class families expect a better quality of life, obtaining the best products or services within their budget. They like delicious food and enjoy the sensual pleasure of food. They focus on multiple dimensions such as health, nutrition, taste, variety, freshness, hygiene and environment.

    The study also revealed the importance of having food in a staff restaurant. The majority of people agree that it is not only to relax and refresh but, perhaps more importantly, it helps create improved communities in the place of work. Additionally, it helps to build social connections with colleagues.  For us, this means food is often more than just taste (although that must be right!). It is also about creating an experience.

    Curation of new dining experience

    How to create an experience to meet all types of consumer needs in a single place? The staff restaurant can provide not only a dining space, but also a social place for colleagues to communicate, relax and refresh themselves. Sodexo therefore launches our "SMART EATERY" concept consisting of five key “ingredients”.

    Firstly, it is about a thriving gastronomy. Our professional service line is put in place to create an authentic cuisine with local flavors. Health and nutrition is another principle element. Fresh ingredients and healthy options are provided with balanced nutrition. An online app provides regular advice on health and wellness. Thirdly, people from different regions with varied favorites can be satisfied with a selection of diverse options, from noodles and hamburgers to spicy soup and salads etc. In this space, consumers can also enjoy a digital and easy dining experience. It covers touchpoints throughout the dining journey, including, but not limited to, online ordering, smart reservation, and SEEFOOD-  a first of its kind: a self-cashier system that is based on visual re-organization of food in China It also provides personalized nutrition analysis for each consumer. And last, but not least, all the curation in terms of sound, feel and visual, ambience etc. allows an immersive dining experience. It is a modern lifestyle in the staff restaurant integrating good taste, pleasant appearance and fun.

    We also closely watch the consumption change among those working within production-based environments (the blue collar market). This group is large in scale and gradually becoming younger. People in this group tend to enjoy diversity in their dishes, eat fast and flexible, and are willing to try new digital technologies. Our “NOURISH” offer starts from their needs. We not only cook traditional and popular dishes, but also develop fresh dishes. At the same time, we apply integrated menu management and streamlined on-site management to increase efficiency and flexibility. This also gives consumers the chance to mix and match their needs and not just rely on the “set menu” option.

    Imagine such a staff restaurant - the environment is brightly colored, the interior decoration creates a sense of leisure, the choice of dishes is rich and varied while the dining is fast and convenient - but it is not just a quick meal. For consumers in industry or manufacturing, there is nothing more relaxing and enjoyable than a relaxed and convenient lunch during a busy day, which really makes them more productive when they get back to work.

    For Sodexo within China, both SMART EATERY and NOURISH are another important milestone in the Sodexo journey to enhance the Quality of Life of its clients and consumers across China. It continues our focus with consumer understanding to add value to their life through a creative and innovative approach to the food experience. We all look forward to working together with more clients and consumers within China who share our “Love of Food”, as a starting point for a better life!