By Bill Billenstein
Everybody eats a little differently from everyone else. We're all unique in that way. Some of this has to do with our physical qualities, but a lot of it comes down to what we as individuals want to get out of a meal. We all might have different health, fitness or personal goals that we're trying to achieve and food is one of the ways that we support those goals.
With all that in mind, one of the most pressing trends taking place across the industry today has to do with embracing the growing need to flex your menus in your corporate cafe environment. While it's certainly true that corporate food service companies like Guckenheimer can't be “everything” to “everybody,” by focusing on emerging eating patterns across your workforce you can uncover new opportunities. At that point, you're offering someone more than just a delicious meal. You're enabling them to flex their own right to choose.
Meat Reduction in the Modern Era
One of the most critical shifts to be aware of as you work on proactively flexing your own menus with your food service company has to do with the recent desire for people to choose when and how much animal protein they might eat.
People have been vegetarians or vegans for years. Likewise, people are still freely eating meat, poultry and seafood. But at the same time, about 1/3rd of people identify as a “flexitarian.” This means that they're actively trying to limit their intake animal proteins, and choosing plants, and plant based proteins instead.
For younger generations of employees, this partially comes down to environmental reasons. The overproduction of livestock is a major concern of millions of people and eating less red meat and poultry is one way to help solve that. Older generations are primarily motivated by health concerns. But regardless, the voice of the people is resoundingly clear: they've come to expect different things from the meals they eat and want to exercise their right to flex.
The Fastest Growing Alternatives to Animal Proteins
At Guckenheimer, our own research has revealed that almost 50% of people are actively looking for more ways to incorporate fruits and nuts into their diet. Brown rice is another popular modern day alternative, as are legumes, seeds and grains. Nut milks and dairy-free alternatives are also core components of any flex menu strategy.
Again, this is not about the total elimination of animal proteins from your corporate cafe menus or from the diets of your employees. People still freely consume these things, but are also looking for opportunities for reduction wherever possible, and their right to choose.
Guckenheimer has always tried to support these and other trends by making sure that we never lose focus on why they're so critical in the first place. People are starting to reduce meat from their diets. Whether they're a part of the “flexitarian” movement, or if they even know what that is, doesn't matter at that point.
What matters is that as chefs, we can sustain that and ultimately make it easier for people to maintain the outcomes they so desire. We can celebrate the things that are not in a dish along with the things that are.
The Guckenheimer Approach
But more than anything, we can continue to play to the strengths that make everyone unique and break free from the perception of “one size dining” once and for all. This hasn't always been an easy road to travel. Slow and steady change with consistent messaging is how you can gain traction in your operations. We are not the food police. We are simply creating an experience around food and offering choice. This allows us to continue to work towards our collective goal of creating better, healthier and more nutritious menu options for everyone involved.