Design Matters: The evolution of workplace F&B

Where did you go for lunch? Did you inhale a sad-looking salad at your desk between meetings? Or do you always escape the office for a full hour to switch off and refuel?

Whatever your lunchtime habits, workplace F&B is having a moment. Employers are beginning to see the benefits of providing their staff with wholesome, nourishing food at work, (and a pleasant environment to enjoy it in) which means the days of the prison-style office canteen could, thankfully, be behind us.

“Businesses are realising they don’t want to serve their staff rubbish food,” says Carley Jones, owner of Manchester-based healthy fast-food chain, Kettlebell Kitchen, who we interviewed last year for our Meet the Independents blog. Jones has tapped into this trend with a number of concessions units; Kettlebell Kitchen-branded canteens at various company headquarters in Manchester city centre. “[Diet] has a direct impact on how someone’s feeling,” she argues “and can therefore have an impact on your profit line.” Providing your staff with convenient access to tasty, healthy food helps them feel valued, cultivates a positive association with the workplace and provides an opportunity to introduce food-based rewards schemes and incentives. It could even help you with recruitment and staff retention, says Jones.

JP Morgan certainly thinks so. It will be opening an in-company branch of Jamie’s Deli at its Capital Dock offices in Dublin, offering “healthy, balanced food” made with local and sustainably sourced ingredients. “With this new site, we're achieving Jamie's goal of bringing wholesome, nutritious and delicious food to hard-working people,” said Jon Knight, CEO at Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group.

Finding the right fit

Eating healthily is all good and well (at least for the first week in January) but how do you ensure your workplace F&B offering won’t lose its novelty appeal as soon as a new coffee/burger/sushi joint opens up around the corner?

The right menu is obviously key here; specifically a varied, seasonal one that will appeal to both the health-conscious worker and someone looking for a treat to perk up an afternoon of mind-numbing sales meetings. Being able to offer all of these things in one place invariably requires the ability to cook fresh food on site, which means you should give as much thought to allocating kitchen space as you do every other element of the layout and design.

Price is also important. If your workers can’t afford to eat there, they won’t. And remember, not everyone in the building is on the same salary. JP Morgan opted for a Jamie’s Deli because it serves breakfast and lunch (staff are unlikely to eat dinner at work) and offers a variety of filling dishes such as pizzas and seasonal soups, plus cheaper, grab-and-go options via the ‘Coffee Dock’ - so something for everyone.

"Businesses are realising they don’t want to serve their staff rubbish food”

In a previous Design Matters blog, we spoke to Sunil Johal, Project Director at property development company, Argent, which specialises in city-centre placemaking, a process that involves strategic placement of commercial properties and F&B outlets. “We design the experience long before we start designing the building and the brands selected need to be commensurate with the other occupiers,” explains Johal. “In the case of Paradise [a brand-new commercial and retail development in Birmingham], that’s people with a disposable income, aged on-average between 25 and 45. So, not Michelin-starred restaurants, but not mass-commercial brands either...They need to appeal to everyone within the development, from graduates, to senior execs.” In other words, don’t be tempted to choose a swanky Michelin-starred restaurant to impress clients, only for it to promptly close down because none of your staff can afford to eat there.

Do it yourself

It goes without saying, any brand you choose to host on your premises should be someone you’re happy to be associated with. And if that’s proving difficult to find, why not do it yourself? Think about what your business stands for; its core values, key message and the type of employee you want to nurture - then distil that down into your very own restaurant concept. If you like the sound of this (but haven’t a clue where to start) get in touch to find out how our team of restaurant design and branding specialists can help you.

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