“Corporate workplace dining has to change”

Corporate workplace dining has to change

Gaye Bullard, FIH, market development director, Corporate Services, Sodexo UK & Ireland and chair of the Association of Catering Excellence (ACE)

The role of the foodservice provider is changing. We are seeing employee engagement as a key focus for many organisations and a crucial element to achieving high engagement scores is through creating a workplace which inspires, engages and ultimately improves productivity.

In the UK today, knowledge workers, an employee whose job involves using knowledge rather than producing goods or services, represent 60 per cent of the overall labour force and are the single fastest growing segment. The needs and expectations of knowledge workers in relation to their work and working environment are unique and it is essential that organisations reliant on this group consider their unique needs if they are to drive productivity, retention and engagement.

Earlier this year we published the results of research we carried out with Quora Consulting among some 2,800 knowledge workers in the Greater London area, and it revealed some interesting statistics.

Two thirds (67%) of respondents cited the reason that they left their last role was because the workplace was not optimised for them and around the same number (69%) stating that workplace design directly impacted their effectiveness.

By working in partnership with clients foodservice providers can help clients enhance the performance of their business by forging communities where their employees can thrive.

As we all know the health and wellbeing of our employees is crucial to the success of businesses whatever the industry.  For many employers looking at the workplace and how it can improve the quality of life of its employees, food is a major element of this. Our research showed that only 26% of knowledge workers feel they are well catered for by their employer.

But market demand and the way people interact with food is evolving. New disruptors and changing lifestyle trends mean that workplace food offers must not only compete, they must differentiate in some way to provide a genuine hook for consumers to keep on coming back. This is made all the more difficult by increasing corporate real estate costs leading to greater pressures on space.

It’s not just the workplace that’s changing; the way we work is too. More flexible working patterns require foodservice providers to think differently about how and when they should engage with consumers.

We are now having to adapt our offer to meet the individual and specific needs of our clients, more and more we are being asked to provide a more bespoke offer and using this insight from clients as well as global trends we are becoming more agile in our approach which in turn positions us as driving the trends within the workplace dining environment.

It is our challenge to understand the trends and create different workplace and food offers that customers value.

Every other month I am lucky enough to take part in EP’s Entrepreneur’s Club, this is a great opportunity to hear some fascinating innovations from emerging talent, and to offer advice and support from within the foodservice industry as well as look at the opportunities these entrepreneurs can offer the corporate world.

Even for a company such as ours with a long established heritage in culinary excellence there is always the drive to continuously improve, and we have been working hard to do this by reinforcing our food offer.

Central to this is London. It sets the global trend for other cities to follow and this is recognised within the wider Sodexo business.

The capital remains Europe’s largest and most populated metropolitan economy and is a global marketplace which is arguably the most competitive in terms of contract catering. And with this there is a unique demand and requirements around employee experience, attraction and retention.

We recognise this and it is for this reason that we recently welcomed The Good Eating Company into the Sodexo family.

The Good Eating Company has been operating since 1999, it is a London based business with some twenty five high profile clients delivering unique services to creative agencies and organisations, financial institutions, asset management, gaming, consultancy, real estate investment, retail, pharmaceutical companies and the arts.

Its philosophy has always been to work in partnership with progressive companies who require a distinctive and creative catering service. The company has a passion for real, honest food, using the best locally-sourced ingredients to create delicious and innovative menus.  In summary its teams provide a total food experience which reflects and enhances the core values of the companies it works with and I am excited to be working with them on some new opportunities.

The new face of corporate dining
The changing market dynamics require flexible solutions and for organisations, particularly in urban metropolitan areas such as London where the competition from the high street is strong and although still in its infancy, disruptive digital technology is already starting to impact the foodservice market as companies such as Deliveroo, UberEats, and Just Eat move into the office scene.

More and more clients want space for people to not only relax and eat their meals but one that encourages social interaction and collaboration. We continue to develop our offer focusing on wellness, nutrition and productivity and always based on the latest trends and consumer insight.

Corporate organisations in urban metropolitan areas such as London need to decide to relinquish or invest in an innovative workplace dining experience for their employees. And for providers such as Sodexo, our foodservice proposition has to encompass the evolving factors in the workplace.

We recognise there is more to be done as the nature of office work changes which affects the needs of employees in the workplace, from the longer hours worked and the impact technology is having on the way office works carry out their day to day jobs.

At Sodexo we are relishing the challenge and have new partners with that crucial entrepreneurial spirit to help us adapt to the changing needs of the corporate environment.

Gaye has worked within the hospitality industry for over three decades, she is currently chair of the Association of Catering Excellence and a fellow of the Institute of Hospitality (IoH). Through her work with the Institute Gaye supports its Women in Hospitality group and will be joining the Institute’s Mentor Me programme in 2018, a mentoring scheme for recent graduates or those newly employed in a hospitality management role to be mentored by a seasoned industry manager.

For more on EP contact; Ben.Butler@epmagazine.co.uk

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