As we enter into the third year of the global COVID-19 health crisis, more and more people are returning to working in-person after months/years of working from home. HR and Facilities teams across the country are working around the clock to address new and uncharted challenges as they prepare for a returning workforce (maintaining and enforcing social distancing, the wearing of face masks, and keeping the office free of harmful contaminants, to name a few). For companies with in-house cafeterias, an even more complicated question arises: how on earth can employees continue to be fed safely onsite with a cafeteria that is closed for the foreseeable future?
Food programs, while a major perk for employees, can seem like a challenge in our post-COVID world. Long lines and shared tables are not ideal, but what is the alternative? Leaving employees to figure it out for themselves can have unforeseen consequences, including exposure to harmful contaminants when leaving campus for lunch. Of course, an in-house food program and the associated accouterments that come along with it are entirely dependent on your company’s budget, which you should establish first and foremost. Diving deeper by outlining your budget per meal per employee can be even more helpful in identifying the program that is right for your company.
Before we start… A public service announcement about supporting local restaurants
Local restaurants are recovering from some of the most difficult hardships they have ever encountered. A great way to help them restore business is to provide them with the opportunity to serve your team. Regardless of the food-at-work solution you use, we recommend utilizing local restaurants as much as possible.
An office lunch delivery option for groups at lunchtime can be a great alternative to a traditional cafeteria program, at least, in the interim. This is a budget-friendly option that is material based on your population.
Using Fooda delivery as an example: your team will be presented with up to six different restaurants and menus from which to choose. Employees must place their orders prior to 10 AM for a noon delivery. Meals are individually packaged and labeled. A Fooda delivery team member drops the lunches off. Simple as that.
This program allows for tight control over who is entering and leaving your workplace at lunchtime, reducing the risk of exposure to you and your employees. By adding a subsidy for your employees, you can drive participation up, offer a tangible perk, and ensure that your employees are satisfied during their lunch hours.
Micro-Markets & Vending Services
Vending has come a long way in the last few years. You’re probably thinking of a vending machine tucked away in an ill-lit and rarely-used corner of the building with potato chips that haven’t been purchased since the 1980s. There has been a vending renaissance, of sorts, in the preceding years, with services like micro-markets stocked with fresh sandwiches and salads, healthy and not-so-healthy snacks, beverages, and much more. These coolers are available to your employees 24/7 with regular restocking and rotation of products to ensure that your employees won’t get burned out on the same things ad nauseam. These programs are scalable with several different levels of service available. Fooda partners with several national and regional vending partners, so you’ll be getting the best that the vending industry has to offer. Your employees will be responsible for the purchase of products, but this still encourages enjoying mealtime on site without relying on employees to bring lunch from home every day.
Barista Bar or Office Coffee Service
Going for a walk around the block to a favorite coffee shop is always a welcome respite to the workday. With restrictions in place presently, that just isn’t possible anymore. Fooda can help to bring the coffee shop directly to you! If available, part of your existing cafeteria can be converted into a barista bar, offering hot and cold beverages as well as a prepackaged retail program. By utilizing space you already have, Fooda can partner with a local coffee shop or roastery in your community to bring satisfying refreshments to your employees for the perfect midday pick-me-up.
A larger budget yields a more robust program for your employees. If your budget is slightly higher, consider a rotating Popup program to utilize a portion of your currently unused cafeteria space. The concept is simple: each day, you’ll be notified of a new local restaurant that will set up in your cafeteria and sell meals to your employees. Our restaurant partners prepare the meals in their own kitchens and transport them to your place of business, prepackaged and ready to be eaten. All restaurant labor will be wearing personal protective equipment, including a face mask and gloves and all Popup surfaces are cleaned with hospital-grade sanitizer before and after each service.
The benefits of this type of program are innumerable. With over 2,500 restaurant partners nationwide, a Fooda Popup program can offer a stunningly wide variety of authentic cuisine, from tacos to Thai curry and everything in between. Such variety ensures that your employees will never experience “menu fatigue,” or the dread associated with eating the same types of meals over and over again. The lack of menu fatigue increases your employee participation (subsidizing a portion of lunch can also help drive participation). Employee participation means new and valuable sources of revenue for restaurants in your community, who have suffered empty dining rooms for a significant portion of this year. In other words, you’re investing directly back into your community and your employees at the same time, all while ensuring employees stay safe by staying in the office at lunchtime.
It’s more important than ever to think outside of the box, as the world adapts to our current reality there are new opportunities to rethink the traditional ways that business has been done in the past. A scalable, hybrid food program can be thought of in much the same way. In this case, if you have the budget to do so, consider implementing a combination of the above programs. Maybe your cafeteria will operate one station operated by two cooks Monday through Thursday and supplement a small subsidy for Fooda delivery on Fridays. The bottom line is that all fooda programs are completely flexible, scalable, and customizable. In other words, let Fooda handle it!