We may not have the local food traditions of the French but there is an opportunity to create one

Food today is probably the best universal language and the one thing that really does bring all people of all types together. Sport may evoke more emotion but it is food that will bring people together socially.

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

We are all aware of the rise in strain in the work environment but it can be hard going to make the argument for the old fashioned one hour lunch break as so many do not feel that they have the time and we know from research that the average lunch break sits at around 27 minutes as we all try to cram in more work during the course of our days. So one does have to ask as to whether we value food and how it can play a cultural/social role?

Our argument has long been that a strong food service strategy for any business should be that great food and great designed spaces can play a positive impact on bringing people together, supporting culture and showcasing first hand that a company is committed to its employees. It is a simple argument and one that is beginning to build its own momentum but it has had to swim against a current of thinking that has argued that food service is a cost and a cost that should be kept to the lowest possible margins even though all the statistics are telling us that employees are struggling with productivity, health and with mental health.

“It was a telling point. It is also a point that I suspect many in the UK would echo.”

If ever there has been an argument for a false saving this must be it. It simply leads to poor behaviours, a lack of trust, and a strained work force that do not feel valued. There really are bigger issues to be considered than such a narrow argument.

Food plays an important cultural role and it is important that food service companies start to highlight just how they can play a positive contribution in influencing the quality of life of people from all walks of life – schools to business, universities to hospitals

Food is part of our heritage and it is reflective of who we are. I also recall a leading French Chef who when questioned as to whether Paris would be concerned by the rise of London as a world leading gastronomic centre simply replied that it was of no concern as, in France, food was a provincial legacy where recipes were passed down from generation to generation using the produce of the region, celebrating the values of the region. Why should they, he countered, be concerned by a City that imported great food styles from across the globe rather than celebrate the use of local produce?

It was a telling point. It is also a point that I suspect many in the UK would echo. London is a multicultural city and we have an opportunity to experience many different types of culture, history, or national identity through different foods. This is exciting but do we in truth need to still develop a stronger belief in food as it does play what could be such an influential role in solving some of our ills. However, it is no coincidence that in a survey with soldiers serving in Afghanistan, it was noted that the British cuisine they missed most was “Indian”. On the same basis, it is no surprise that there is a new generation of Indian cuisines beginning to break through.

We all know that food has long been the lynchpin in bringing families and friends together in a positive environment. This has been the case all across the world. Why should it be any different in the workplace?

It is argued that the UK food culture is influenced too much by work and social issues with the number one reason being a hectic lifestyle leading to poor food choices. There is probably a strong argument to support this but isn’t this an opportunity for food companies to make a greater argument for great fresh food produce?

The good news is that we have a real opportunity to create lasting change. We all know the young are struggling in work. 70% want to eat local produce as it is believed to be fresh and can be trusted. It is also said that 55% of millennials would prefer to eat a freshly cooked meal over any other option. We may not possess the traditions of the French but we do love food. We can create a food culture if we celebrate the importance of great produce and cuisines. It is an opportunity.