Food has a critical role to play in the return to the workplace. Done well, it can excite and inspire your team and facilitate the kind of collaboration and interaction that has been so difficult to achieve over the last two years. But workplace food offerings also need to reflect wider trends and ever-changing expectations, or people will start to look elsewhere. Read the article to find out how to feed employees in the post-pandemic workplace.

Workplace trends in 2022 and beyond

Sodexo’s research shows 78% of senior executives believe innovative food models that fit new ways of working will be an important consideration for the future workplace. These businesses recognise the role the right food offers and experiences can play in bringing people together.

In adopting these new models, they will also need to consider several important trends we’ve observed through discussions with our clients:

  • Working from home is here to stay, along with hybrid models and the office. Companies are still finding their feet and adapting to the challenge of variable numbers on site on any given day.
  • Many workers, especially those in the younger generations, are feeling positive about spending more time in the office with colleagues.
  • Organisations are redesigning workspaces to be more collaborative, with more space for social distancing. Where kitchen space is sacrificed, delivered food models are coming to the fore.
  • Companies are starting to focus on their culture and purpose - taking the time to understand employees’ behaviours and needs, and developing employee value propositions that meet them.

Providers of workplace services need to respond with new approaches.

Approaches that help create environments that support great performance, combining exceptional guest services with exciting food and hospitality offerings. 

When employees go back into the workplace, there will be an opportunity to reconnect with the company and with their fellow workers. Food will play a pivotal role in that experience and a feeling of being valued.

John Wright, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Food at Sodexo

The role of the workplace lunch

Our latest UK Worklife Continuum tracker showed 55% of people plan to use workplace dining facilities just as often as they did before the pandemic, when they return to work. 

But 42% plan to use them less, with many of these choosing instead to bring food from home.

This shift could have a significant impact on corporate culture, as food plays such an important role in bringing people together. It drives the kind of ‘casual collisions’, chance meetings and shared moments that benefit collaboration as well as making an office a more enjoyable place to be.

Even a simple coffee break can have an immeasurable impact on employee relationships, as long as the coffee is good enough to attract people in the first place. A ‘way we’ve always done it’ approach won’t be enough as expectations evolve, so we as service providers must keep a watchful eye on the latest food trends around the world. 

 

Taking inspiration from consumer trends in the food industry

 

Digital food offer

As we look to review and reimagine food services, we are taking inspiration from some of the macro consumer trends around the high street, as well as the wider retail and food and beverage sectors. 

The pandemic accelerated a move towards frictionless and hyper-convenient formats, with around 79% of consumers using contactless. We’ve looked for new ways to minimise the time spent in one place and that’s led to more curbside pick-ups and advanced bookings.

We also responded with the launch of Twelve - an app designed to make food ordering and collection experiences as seamless as possible. Customers can order online in advance for collection or delivery, or simply scan their phone at the till when they’ve made their selection. 

The growing popularity of Amazon Go and other hyper-convenient retail formats gives a clear indication of what consumers want, and how the food industry is likely to evolve. The underlying digital systems that support these changes need to provide a smooth experience for the customer, reducing time and effort and giving them more choice over how and when to purchase. 

Exciting changes are also taking place on the menu itself, as the latest food trends around the world are reflected in the ingredients chefs are embracing. Sodexo’s Modern Recipe offer is designed to combine contemporary, vibrant spaces with meals that are as interesting as they are healthy.

Modern Recipe takes inspiration from cooking styles and flavours from around the world, while showcasing local, seasonal ingredients.

Even before the pandemic we observed growing demand for food that does more than provide simple nutrition - functional foods that boost the immune system or improve gut health. Grains and pulses feature more prominently in response to these consumer trends, alongside fruits and vegetables like blueberries, kale, cauliflower and purple carrots.

 

Using partnerships to accelerate change

Over the next 12 to 18 months, further workplace catering changes are likely to reflect consumers’ growing desire for more flexible solutions.

In late 2020, Sodexo acquired a majority stake in Fooditude, a workplace catering company producing high-quality food from a 20,000 sq ft central production unit in London.

Fresh meals are delivered every day to corporate clients who are increasingly seeing food as a vital benefit that helps keep employees happy and healthy. The Fooditude off-site model creates an opportunity to respond to a greater desire for flexibility, meeting demand for healthy food delivered to employees even when an on-site kitchen cannot be accommodated.

Businesses can easily scale up when more people are in the office than expected, but there’s no waste on days when numbers are lower.

good eating company cateringOn a larger scale, Sodexo’s cafe concept - Good Eating Company - helps companies respond to consumer trends in the food industry. It has set a new standard for workplace dining, with a team of chefs producing bespoke daily menus, using only the highest quality ingredients.

Bringing exceptional food on-site in this way is not just about providing healthy and interesting meal choices. It gives people a reason to get excited about coming back to the building.

Each employee will have very different experiences and expectations when they return to the workplace, so flexibility will be key.

Philippe Casgrain, SVP, Global FM and HSE, Sodexo

Creating food ecosystems built around people

Each of Sodexo’s food transformation programmes is centered around three core pillars:

  • Digital - Technology, machine learning and analytics to optimise operations and experiences, plus digital solutions for ordering meals.
  • Convenience - Giving consumers the food they want, when and where they want it. Reimagining and reallocating space to suit the needs of each workforce.
  • Production - With emphasis on sustainability. Quality ingredients that are locally sourced wherever possible.

We believe food is at the heart of human connection, so we are putting it at the heart of our plans. As we adapt to changing expectations through the introduction of digital platforms and novel food models, we maintain a focus on delivering delicious, healthy and sustainable food.

Alongside new off-site models, we have introduced on-site solutions such as food lockers that allow employees to access hot meals even when they choose to work outside traditional office hours.

But food is just the beginning.

Vital Spaces is an ecosystem of connected workplace and employee-focused services. Taking a more integrated approach to these services allows us to create more agile physical spaces that enhance employee connections and optimise productivity. 

 

Vital Spaces

Does your workplace food offer measure up?

Find out

November 11, 2021