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Catering


and insights at market intelligence firm Allegra, says: “We can see how many contract caterers have become very aware of the impact of the branded coffee shop market…leading to significant investment into coffee and beverage strategies.” The desire to keep in line with what is happening on the high street has always been present for contract caterers. Like no other facilities service, with food there is always a choice for the end user. The goal for the contract caterer has to be to keep employees on site, either eating at their desk or within a third space or restaurant or café area. But the democratisation of the workplace has further complicated this.


Rising expectations Alongside the somewhat Machiavellian desire of employers to keep their people close, the employees (increasingly generation X and not just Y) are demanding more from their workplace. This trend is reflected in better food education and broader tastes influenced by the rise of street food, pop-up catering outlets, as well as flourishing trendy markets in almost all major UK cities, plus increased awareness about allergens and nutrition. Again, this links back to workplace as, increasingly, employers realise they not only need to meet the demands of the demographic they employ, but they also have a duty of care for their people. Food increasingly plays a critical element in shaping workplace strategy. There is growing consensus that food helps with productivity and employee engagement. The CBI estimates £17bn is lost in the UK through absenteeism. Knoll Workplace Research claims the cost of poor health and poor wellbeing is around 25% to 35% of payroll. It is no surprise, then, that wellness programmes are gaining popularity – some research claims an ROI of between 144% and 3,000% – with food playing a central element. Research by the International Labour Organisation in 2005 proved that poor diet at work can reduce productivity by 20%, and in 2013 the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine argued that employees who eat healthy all day long are 25% more likely to perform better. This is backed up by the Leesman Index, which asks what factors define a productive and


effective environment: 90% of employees responding want to see quality tea, coffee and refreshment facilities, and 63% want to have a restaurant or canteen. Hence contract caterers must respond with food and a level of service that complements an organisation’s workplace strategy to establish a healthier, more engaged, better performing workforce. For example, Frans van Eersel of Google stated that after the best possible IT connectivity Google knows its people, when at work, demand the best food and the best environment in which to eat that food. More and more employers are reaching the same conclusions. This is the trend caterers must reflect by aligning their food service delivery so that it supports customers’ own workplace strategies. The more enlightened customers, Sky, Google etc., see the nature of the food as important but recognise the process of enjoying a meal is crucial, too.


Call to action But food in the workplace can go further. 70% of adults are missing out on having five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and nearly 65% of the population is obese or overweight (putting the UK just 4% behind US). There is a very real call to action here which, when translated into the workplace, establishes a duty of care and carries both commercial and cultural significance. Lack of physical activity also has an impact at work – we just don’t move as much as we used to in general and this is now linked to major health inequalities. One in six deaths in the UK has been linked to a sedentary lifestyle: office workers spend 85% of their working day sat down. Different working environments,


FACILITIES 85





70% of adults are missing out on having five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and nearly 65% of the population is obese or overweight





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