In today’s tight labor market, every organization is looking for ways to stand out. From flexible vacation policies to pet-friendly offices, company perks are an expected part of the workplace.
One of the best ways to attract (and keep) talent is by offering healthy and delicious dining options. Thoughtful touches like fresh squeezed juice, premium coffee, organic produce, and meal prep services are just a few of the options that employees are finding in their company cafe. One industry report says 48% of respondents would consider the snack options of a company when considering taking a new job.
Smart companies with modern employee dining programs are capitalizing on this by staying on top of the latest trends. Here’s what a modern employee dining program looks like, the latest trends to watch, and how to choose the right one for your company.
The Modern Employee Dining Program
Today’s employee dining programs reflect trends in the broader marketplace, which include flexible schedules and the desire to eat quality food. The classic concept of a 9-to-5 environment and a department-sized cafeteria serving cheap food no longer meets the needs of today’s workforce.
These days, a modern employee dining program offers smaller retail-type establishments with prepackaged gourmet sandwiches and salads. Healthy meal and snack options are expected in today’s workplaces. In fact, some companies are offering services or stations to prepare a meal before heading home to cook it. Others offer grocery delivery to the office.
Some companies have even created relaxed seating areas with comfy couches and coffee tables where co-workers can exchange ideas while having a meal.
3 Successful Food Service Trends
It should come as no surprise that Millennials are at the forefront of the newest and most successful trends in food service. Growing up in an artisanal food culture of breads, cheeses, fruit preserves, cured meats, beverages, oils, vinegars and diverse flavors, they have pushed food service trends toward more sophisticated — and healthy — tastes. Here are three successful food service trends to consider integrating into your modern employee dining program.
1. Plant-Forward Menus
It may sound like a clever way to market vegetarian dining, but “plant-forward” does not mean vegetarian. Plant forward means using meat as a condiment and highlighting vegetables in delicious and interesting ways. This trend in dining concepts that can be applied to any type of cuisine. As people become increasingly aware of the importance of balanced nutrition and sustainable agriculture, all signs point toward eating more foods derived from plants, both in quantity and variety. This includes not just fruits, vegetables, and greens, but also beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, and plant oils.
2. Indoor/Outdoor Dining Spaces
How about a side of vitamin D with your lunch? Modern workplace cafeteria designers are doing away with the cavernous, artificially-lit dining halls and creating spaces that people actually feel comfortable eating and spending time in. According to a study conducted by Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell, more natural light translates to more alert employees. Employees with greater access to natural light reported 56% less drowsiness throughout their workday. Often, this means integrating indoor and outdoor dining areas whenever feasible. Allowing employees to take their breaks outside to eat, confer, and connect can create new opportunities for brainstorming, collaborating, and team-building.
3. Closing the Farmer to Consumer Gap
Besides healthy options in flexible spaces, millennials are also hungry for transparency. Where food comes from is becoming an important consideration for them. Companies are launching programs to highlight their menu’s origins.
The Right Direction for Your Organization
When deciding what food service trends would be best for your organization’s employee dining program, it’s good to remember that it’s not a singular choice. A modern corporate dining program is about more than feeding your staff, it’s also about healthy offerings, transparent sourcing, comfortable surroundings, and importantly, how it ties into your company as a whole.
But how do you discover what matters most to your team and your organization, so that you can establish a successful dining program? Opening a direct dialogue with your employees to discover their needs and preferences is a great start. Encourage feedback and suggestions as you implement changes. But most importantly, discover what brings out the best in your team, and how your dining program can move everyone in that direction.
This is what makes the three aforementioned food service trends so successful: A deep understanding of company culture. Once your dining program embraces what makes your organization unique and valuable, the benefits of employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity are soon to be realized.