At Guckenheimer, we always like to think of a new year as a new beginning. Even if you're totally satisfied with the way things are going for your business, it's always valuable to stop and reassess things from a critical perspective. Only then will you be able to confirm whether you are truly headed in the right direction, or if you became a victim of complacency without realizing it.
This is especially true of your food service partner, which will directly impact the long-term success of your employee food programs. Even if you think you're satisfied with your current cafe, things might not be as straightforward as they appear. There are a few key warning signs in particular that you'll want to watch out for, as they can indicate that it may be time to rethink your corporate dining program on a larger scale than just swapping out menu items moving forward.
Start With Your Employees
As corporate dining is supposed to benefit your employees first and foremost, it makes sense to begin this process with them. After all, they should absolutely see it as one of the top amenities that you offer. It's also a powerful opportunity for you to not only attract but retain top talent to your organization.
Sit down with some of your employees and ask them what they like and dislike about your cafe. Are they completely satisfied, or are they choosing to get their healthy, delicious meals from somewhere else? If they are going elsewhere, what are the contributing factors to that? Would a small-but-meaningful change be enough to get them back into the cafe, or is it going to take something larger?
Employees have opinions and, when asked properly, they are more than willing to share them. Don't ignore this invaluable resource moving forward.
The Myth of the "One Size Fits All" Approach to Food Services
One of the things we hear from prospective new clients at Guckenheimer is that their employee food programs have grown stale. You shouldn't have to make constant calls to your food service partner asking for fresh and new ideas for your menus. They should know before your menus grow stale that trouble is on the horizon, allowing them to proactively do something about it today before participation rates suffer tomorrow. But this can't happen if your partner isn't keeping up with the latest trends.
Likewise, cycle menus are absolutely a thing of the past. Yes, "Taco Tuesday" is as popular as it ever was. But a constant stream of fresh and new ideas are the biggest asset you have in terms of getting people to want to eat in the same restaurant every day. Your cafe should be a choice, not a lack of options.
Your menus shouldn't be driven by someone in a corporate office somewhere. They should be driven by the people who will actually be using your cafe. No two workforces are the same, so why should a food service partner try to force you into a "one size fits all" box that doesn't meet your needs?
To get an indication of whether these things are issues, consider visiting a competitor account for an afternoon. Take a look at the design and layout of the cafe, the food on the menus, employee interactions with staff, and more. What are the things that this cafe has that yours don't? What are the ways in which this competitor is playing to the strengths that make their client unique?
Most importantly, ask yourself how does what you're seeing differ from what you are currently being provided? Are they on the same level, or do you suddenly see the core areas in which your own cafe is sorely lacking?
Never be afraid to talk to others and check references. Go to somebody's cafe and spend time sampling their menu. Ultimately, potentially replacing your food service partner is a big decision. This effort is more than worth the time required, especially when you consider the powerful benefits that you could be bringing to your own organization in the not-too-distant future.
The Price We Pay for Loyalty
In the end, never forget that a lot of the best, forward-thinking companies are often the ones that have employee food programs nailed in a way that benefits everyone. If you want to get to that point, don't overlook the genuine opportunity for improvement that the new year represents. You may come away realizing that you're totally happy with your current food service partner. That's terrific. But if you don't, it's better to make the jump to someone else now before subpar employee food programs continue to generate malaise and disinterest across 2019 and beyond.
Remaining loyal to your current provider is admirable, but understand that it may be doing more harm than good at the core of your business. Ask yourself what price you and your employees are truly paying for that loyalty to your current provider you've put a priority on. Oftentimes, the answer to that question will reveal that a change is in order.
But in this case, change can definitely be a good thing.