Insights are great but then what do you do?

Sodexo’s recently-appointed food transformation director, Adrian Evans, explains the importance of taking action following research. 

Having discovered what customers feel about their workplace and the impact it has on their productivity, what needs changing in the way workplace dining is delivered?

We all rely on insight to ensure our offers are providing what the customer wants, not just what we think they want. We invest heavily in gathering insights and shouting about what we have learnt but what happens next? Using the results of our research amongst knowledge workers we are looking at how we can support our clients by delivering a best- in-class foodservice offer which not only positively impacts the productivity of their employees but their overall wellbeing too.

One area which we cannot ignore is the impact technology is having on how we work. Longer working hours and larger amounts of information being processed mean the mental and physical health of employees and creating social spaces for them to interact has never been more important.

As we all know food is brain fuel and without it we simply cannot function at our best. With 10 out of 21 meals eaten at work, foodservice providers have a key role and responsibility in ensuring people have access to healthy, nutritious meals which they want to eat. With such a large proportion of meals eaten at work, we do have an influence on the food choices people make at home too.

It is not simply about ensuring we provide healthy choices, we need to strive to create the right food experience by providing the healthiest choice as the best and favoured choice. Today’s consumer wants more than what is put on their plate – they are looking for a whole experience. To satisfy this need we need to look at the whole customer journey, from ambience, environment and choice through to availability and frequency – work is changing, so is the workplace and therefore workplace dining has to change too.

We are working closely with our clients to help ensure the food service offering is aligned to the workplace strategy of their organisation. Some are more advanced than others but the common theme is collaboration and understanding the customer needs.

Our research revealed we are moving away from just breakfast and lunch service. The restaurant space can become an expensive space if it is not utilised throughout the day. We are all more mobile, we work in a less structured way, the restaurant offers the opportunity for colleagues to collaborate more, restaurants need to be designed to help encourage those all-important casual collisions, enabling teams to collaborate, which in turn helps the organisation succeed as its people are more engaged and productive.

For the last nine years, before joining Sodexo, I led the operations for Google’s food programme across its offices in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific region. Although it was a free issue programme I truly believe we as foodservice providers have to look at this model and make it work in a commercial operation as it really is the way forward for organisations which rely on their people to make their business a success.

By making food important again, restaurants and dining spaces can become active social hubs that improve productivity and communication. By opening restaurants for longer hours, extending food offers, considering the needs and patterns of employees will not only improve wellbeing but also have a positive commercial impact for companies.

This is not new information and is a regular topic of discussion. It was the theme of the recent lunch we co-hosted with EP. The lunch discussion centred around the fact many organisations find it challenging to improve their foodservice offer, yet with change happening in society and the way we work, companies do need to think about how to improve the wellbeing of today’s employees and those of tomorrow. 

What about the food?

In an age where we are awash with fantastic chefs innovating and creating different and new dining experiences out on the high street, we have to ensure that we are not behind the times – to get people eating in our restaurants we need to mirror what is on offer on the high street and that ranges from the grab and go options and cooked meals through to the hospitality menus for meetings and executive lunches.

We have a brigade of exceptionally talented chefs, they are central to our success in the delivery of our food services. It is for this reason we take their development very seriously. We want to provide them with the experience and knowledge to develop their skills which in turn benefits us and our clients. At the end of last year we welcomed critically-acclaimed chef, Adam Handling as a consultant and in May he welcomed a group of our chefs to his restaurant, The Frog, in Spitalfields for a masterclass session. Adam presented a range of dishes from his current menu to our chefs with the inspiration to develop the dishes for their own menus, reinvigorating our offer in the corporate services market, particularly in London.

Craft development is of great importance at Sodexo with David Mulcahy our food development and innovation director co-ordinating a wide range of experiences for chefs from masterclasses such as this one to food tours, supplier trips and competitive cooking to name just a few. It is an exciting time, the workplace and how we all work is changing rapidly and at Sodexo we are embracing this change. We are using valuable insights combined with the expertise from the likes of Adam Handling and taking these to our clients to work in partnership with them to maximise their work space and create the right environment for their employees to thrive and their business to succeed.