Food for thought

Bennett Hay has launched its outlook for workplace catering as organisations get set to take the dust covers off their office spaces.

Bennett Hay’s findings highlight a behavioural change and increased appetite for conscious consumption driven by the significant learnings from lockdown. The insights into hospitality and foodservice in the workspace also show a greater corporate onus on employee wellbeing after face-to-face contact was put on pause for 12 months.

Hybrid ecosystems at work
Without doubt the biggest impact has been physical distancing and a UK wide shift to working from home, where possible. As a matter of course, workspaces have been reconfigured to ensure social distancing along with heightened sanitisation and a move to a touch-less environment.

A planned return to the office has advanced the role of HR as organisations look to adopt and formalise more flexible working processes, whilst also re-establishing their company cultures.

HR departments have been jettisoned into rethinking their people policies ready for the return of staff and the necessary team reboot. A dispersed workforce with many, if not all, team members working remotely is likely to have impacted company culture and morale meaning there is an even greater need to create opportunities for social interaction and support. Ultimately, spending time in the office whether full time or combined with remote working, has never been more important in helping employees with their physical and emotional wellbeing and sense of belonging.

Digitisation of the workplace experience
Workplace analytics are commonplace as offices have strived to become touch-less spaces. Digitisation enables HR to gauge employee engagement, satisfaction and experience when in the office and with current and future employees seeking greater connection and belonging from their employer, the analytics and information must be acted upon to create a new meaning to the workplace.

Successful business performance won’t just be about productivity, it will be measured alongside health and an employee’s sense of belonging to reflect new office dynamics and a new social contract.

The role of the traditional facilities management company is evolving to bring their clients brand and values to life in the services they offer and how they bring the employee experience to life.

Conscious consumption
Now more than ever there is an opportunity to innovate with wellness programmes as corporates get serious about the wellbeing agenda and ensuring their employees are well supported, both mentally and physically. Catering partners will play a significant role here, particularly as the impact of Covid-19 on society has led to a greater interest in food items that can help and augment health and personal wellbeing.

A tighter aperture and appetite for nutrition and healthy eating has come to the fore driven by a year of people reconnecting with home cooking, their local growers and producers and a fresh realisation of the benefits of seasonal fruit and vegetable variations.

Immunity boosters will feature in both food and drinks selections as people look to support their immune system and combat potential illness. Consumption of immune boosting supplements is on the rise and by adding foods with high levels of vitamins and minerals to menus, the food on offer for guests underlines a commitment back to employees of their value in the workplace. Ginger, echinacea and turmeric will feature along with probiotics available in kombucha and kefir.

Local was the big watchword from lockdown as consumers turned to their local small suppliers, artisans and markers. There is a 60 per cent increase in supporting local businesses as consumers re-engage with the personal service they deliver along with a lesser environmental impact of doing business with them. Add in the backstory and heritage of the supplier and local small batch makers and artisans are set to feature across menus. Ultimately, fresh and seasonal and local means crops in plentiful abundance, not necessarily at a premium price because of delivery and import duties.

Flexitarian goes Climatarian as we take a more deliberate approach to our consumption and the wider environmental impact of food items. Climatarians are all about marginal gains rather than flexing between the polar axis of meat and plant based through a considered move to choosing food and menu items that have the lowest impact on the climate. For example, diets may involve a lesser intake of animal products rather than eliminating them entirely, as a consequence consumers will swap beef for chicken. Using the local supply chain also reduces delivery emissions and capitalises on abundant seasonal harvest too.

Lockdown switched up the term convenience food. With more than 1/5th of adults cooking a meal from scratch, we rediscovered food and the time it gives us with family. Meal kits sprung to the fore as ways of ramping up another Friday night in, add in a celebrity chef and eating in became the new going out. Apps and tech for home delivery are at a boom and will transition into the office environment allowing workers to order direct to their desk. Food and beverage ordering will be integrated along with booking day desk space and meeting rooms, which will facilitate employee experience while in the workspace.

Hands off the handmade. There’s set to be a change in rhetoric around food too as consumers seek confidence in sanitisation and touch-less, contact free food. Homemade, hand cut is out, and longer term may be replaced with robot-made!

Anthony Bennett, founder of Bennett Hay, comments: “We’d normally turn to the restaurant industry and high street to anticipate the trends that will be coming through to the workplace and foodservice sector, however, lockdown has literally turned the entire eating out sector inside out. The past 12-months have given us some breathing space and a realisation across the nation of the important role food can play in helping interactions and personal health and wellbeing. There’s a marked shift in behaviour towards a more conscious consumption. These values replicate the importance that employees and future talent are placing on the company’s they chose to work for and the wider ethics that brand has.”

Bennett Hay
Bennett Hay is a tailored hospitality services business offering guest services, catering services and blended services to support modern workplaces. Clients include Landsec, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Savills.
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