The 2024 Workplace: Elevating Experiences with Local Food

Complete with the latest 2024 employee survey data and trends, this guide is designed to help you transform your workplace into one that resonates with the expectations and values of today’s modern workforce.

Chicago’s downtown office buildings have had a difficult time encouraging workers to return to the office, but WGN Radio 720’s John Williams has a wild idea for boosting company morale. What if the buildings offered tenants free hot roast beef sandwiches? Too crazy? Not for his guest Alex Groesbeck, President of Fooda, who recently joined Williams for an episode of the Wintrust Business Lunch program to talk about the business of providing food perks to employees.

Williams and Groesbeck discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Fooda’s workplace-based business model, how the company has adapted, and what role food at work benefits could play as businesses seek to incentivize a return to the office. You can listen to the program here (interview starts at 12:50), or you can read our synopsis below.

Flexibility is Key

As the city’s downtown businesses steadily recover from the slowdowns and shutdowns of the pandemic, Williams notes that the Chicago-based Fooda offers a “best of both worlds” lunch solution for office workers. Fooda offers so many options – from employer-subsidized lunch programs to on-site restaurant pop-ups – that the host even seemed a little surprised at the variety. After giving a quick overview of the company, Groesbeck summed up Fooda’s service by explaining “The end result is an amazing and convenient food option in your place of work.”

While it’s easy to see that Fooda is offering something fundamentally more exciting than a simple lunch delivery service, Williams was hungry for details. “So, do I get to cherry-pick the restaurants that I want food from? … How does that get determined?”

As Groesbeck noted, that’s all up to the client. The secret to a potent food perks program, from Groesbeck’s perspective, is flexibility. “I’m going to sound like a tech nerd here, but we have a scheduling algorithm,” he said. “We schedule things that people at a given [building or office] like most, and our clients have visibility into that up to a month in advance. For any program that goes every day, we might bring 30 or 40 restaurants from the local community serving a location over a 60-day period.”

Learn more about how offices and buildings are adapting to the new normal by downloading Fooda’s comprehensive 2023 Workplace Food Strategy guide.

Adapting to the Pandemic

Given that Fooda’s business model is based on providing on-site food options to offices, Williams was curious about how the company has fared during an era when many office buildings were completely shuttered. It’s hard to take advantage of food at work benefits when everyone is working from home, after all. How did the company survive the strains of COVID-19?

“It certainly was an interesting last couple of years, both for Fooda and our restaurant partners,” Groesbeck said. He noted that the company has typically focused on “office environments in downtown centers,” but that the firm was able to pivot during the pandemic to include locations where “a lot of folks were still at work,” such as hospitals, manufacturing and warehousing locations, and even military bases. In recent months the company has seen a steady return of clients, with food perks becoming a strong incentive for getting people back into the office.

Subsidized Meal Amenity Taking Off

Groesbeck said that many offices are now offering free lunches to employees, an amenity that was once rarely seen outside of tech and finance companies. He also noted that many of Fooda’s clients are experimenting with a new hybrid approach, offering workers a subsidy that acts as a substantial discount on their meals. “Our technology enables them to discount the food,” he said. “It’s not to the point of being a free lunch, but maybe it’s $5 off of your Dos Toros or Wow Bao order. We’re seeing a lot more companies adopt these kinds of food perks for their employees as they return to the office. That has been exciting and encouraging.”

Williams was curious how this kind of on-site catering would work in a large building like 303 East Wacker, the 18-story riverside office tower that WGN Radio calls home. Not missing a beat, Fooda’s President noted that the company has a wide variety of options – cafe-like lobby buildouts, pop-up catering in a lounge or other open area, or even aggregated food delivery from multiple restaurants – for any business or building looking to provide food at work benefits.

The idea clearly captured the WGN Radio host’s imagination, prompting him to note the morale boost that would surely follow if people in his building could simply head downstairs for a free sandwich. (For himself, Williams noted, a hot roast beef would be ideal.) 

“I’ll talk to our sales team,” Groesbeck joked. “I’ll make sure that we make that happen for you!”

Want to learn more about Fooda’s services, and why our food perks might just be the perfect benefit for your business? Just click here to contact our sales team.