Changing times - Changing Times

The changes in contract catering:

Workplace environments are constantly changing to encourage a healthier work lifestyle, and this is having a significant impact on the requirements for contract caterers.  The sites we visit are more open plan, with games rooms and gyms becoming more commonplace, meaning catering is as much about boosting staff morale and creating a space to come together and collaborate as it is about great food.  It is the role of the contract caterer to implement these changes, create a buzz around it, and lose the old fashioned canteen feel, opening the sites up to more of a market-place, a hive of activity.  This has shown to increase productivity at work, improves staff retention and increases the company’s ability to attract great talent as it becomes a ‘show piece’ for companies to wow not only their clients, but potential staff too.

The second change that has revolutionised work place catering is the introduction of technology. With the capture of data comes knowledge and the ability to understand and predict customers buying habits. In a world where social media brings customers closer to food, it gives the caterer a fantastic opportunity to promote their products without the consumer having even left their desk. Employees want convenience, they want speed and the ability to pay quickly and easily using a familiar experience. This has led to the alignment of the contract catering sector with the retail sector with the use self-checkout terminals increasing rapidly.  This improved technology and increased data captures adds significant value to the contract caterer.

Adaption of the product range, reduced food wastage and minimised staffing costs all adding to the caterers’ bottom line. The growing trend for sustainability will also play its part in this development and the progression of workplace catering.  We can expect sites to reduce the suppliers, purchasing locally and even growing their own products.  Consumers want to know the story; they want to feel invested in the journey and valued in the process.  Being sustainable is becoming the norm and not a trend and deviations from this does cost contractors in a crowed and competitive market.

Our final thought is on the habits of the consumer.  From the data capture mentioned above, it shows there has been a significant increase in grazing and snacking whilst at work.  Research suggests 56% of visits to a workplace catering outlet are for a snack and not for a meal period. Most sites need to offer all day dining or casual dining to reduce queues at peak meal periods and to accommodate the changing patterns of the consumer.

To capitalise on this market, clients need to cover a lot of bases. What does the customer want? When do they want it? And how can we ensure we make the process easy?  Address these questions and sales increase!

In summary it is about what you can do to innovate and utilitise your space better to improve your product.  It is essential to adapt, to evolve and to grow to stay ahead of the market and current trends.

These are exciting times for contract caterers. The key is to embrace them!