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.

In 2014, 20% of employers offered free food to their employees. In 2018, that number had rocketed to 32%. So there’s a good chance you’ve run a search for “food service companies near me.”

Many consumers and business owners don’t know the difference between one food service provider and another. But if you’re searching for nearby food service companies, you need to know what you’re looking for.

Unfortunately, many food service companies are stuck in the past. Consumer demands have changed drastically over the past decade, and the industry hasn’t been especially fast to adapt. If you’re not careful, you could be stuck with a long contract for food that doesn’t satisfy your employees.

woman setting tables in an empty restaurant

We’ll take a look at what to watch out for when you’re picking a food service company near your location. But first, there are a few things you need to understand about these businesses.

The old food service model

Today’s food service companies have a long history. But it might not start where you expect. Some of today’s largest providers of corporate cafeteria management, catering, and other hospitality services started much smaller. Some managed vending machines. Others were local grocery delivery services before becoming national food service companies.

That probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s an important part of why they’re stuck in the past. They built a profit model on sourcing huge amounts of food and getting national-level discounts. Then they distributed that food to make money.

Seems like a fair way to run a business, right?

Why the price-driven food service model no longer works

For a long time, this model worked. It helped what were essentially food distributors grow to manage corporate cafeterias, catering, and other food-related tasks for a huge number of clients around the world.

But this model is breaking down. Today’s consumer just isn’t satisfied with what these contract food service companies provide. Let’s take a look at a few of the key issues:

  1. The price-driven model of food service doesn’t result in high-quality ingredients or the best food. It results in the most cost-efficient food for the commercial food service company. That doesn’t satisfy today’s more sophisticated consumers.
  2. Relationships with vendors keep prices down, but also mean these food service companies get the same ingredients all the time. That results in the same three-week menu cycle.
  3. Cafeteria participation is going down, so these companies need to find more ways to make money. That means they force you to sign a contract saying you’ll go to them for corporate catering, event catering, and any other food-related task you need handled.
  4. Other cost-cutting measures, like self-checkout lanes, are becoming common. This provides a less personal experience for diners.
  5. Even when there are employees serving food, they’re paid minimal wages, almost guaranteeing that they have little passion for their work. Interactions at lunchtime are unspectacular, to say the least.

These corporate food service companies charge more, deliver less, and lock you in to using them as much as possible.

Still want to find a contract food service provider? There’s no need. You have something way better.

There’s already great food service near you

When you search for “food service companies near me,” you’ll see a list of corporate cafeteria management companies and caterers. But, for all the reasons listed above, that’s not what you should be looking for.

Because you don’t want a food service provider. You want great food. There are tons of restaurants already creating engaging, authentic, local dining experiences in your city. Maybe even right down the block.

diners eating at a restaurant community table

And modern food service options bring those dining experiences to your employees. We’ll talk about those companies in a moment.

First, let’s take a look at why calling on these restaurants is a better idea than a nearby food service company:

  1. They aren’t beholden to bottom-line cost-cutting rules. Their main goal is to provide phenomenal food at a reasonable price.
  2. They’re run by people with a serious passion for their cuisine and their business. Meeting chefs and owners creates an entirely new experience for your employees.
  3. Because of their flexibility and the fact that they aren’t negotiating national-level distribution deals, their menus change with the seasons (or even more often). Plus, there are lots of different restaurants that would love to serve your employees. Menu fatigue just isn’t an issue.
  4. They’re already catering to the more sophisticated tastes of the modern consumer. They work with local suppliers, crafting dishes that channel their cultural heritage as well as the tastes of their city. Plus they’re using eco-friendly and sustainable practices.
  5. There are platforms out there that make it easy to partner with these restaurants every day without the hassle of organizing, administrating, and planning a one-off experience.

In short, partnering with restaurants instead of nearby food service companies gives you better food, for good prices, that your employees will love.

And changing the available restaurants every day—what we call a corporate food hall—means here’s an impressive amount of variety.

That kind of food service will see increased participation, which has all sorts of bonuses for your company. Employees eating together can come up with great ideas they never would have had in a conference room. They stay on site, reducing the amount of time they spend away at lunch. And you get to show them that you really care about their health and the food they eat.

It’s a win for everyone. Local restaurants beat the best food service companies every time. It’s no wonder that companies are starting to replace their legacy cafeterias with something better.

It’s not as hard as it sounds

If you think this sounds like an administrative nightmare, don’t worry. Tech companies are upending traditional office cafeterias and making it easy to feed your employees every day.

There are platforms that let employers and office buildings to host a rotating group of local restaurants every day without administrative overhead. You can even get an automated email that goes out to everyone saying what today’s menu will be.

The point is that you don’t need to find a traditional food service company near you. You can work with a provider to find the best local options and bring them to your employees. It’s seamless, it’s easy, and people absolutely love it.

You might call these providers “food service companies.” But we’re doing something completely different. We’re bringing great food to people who appreciate it. We’re making work lives better and we’re helping employers show their employees their appreciation.

How to find the best food service company near you

Okay, so we’ve established that traditional food service companies don’t cut it anymore. But how do you find a company that will help you partner with local restaurants to bring fresh, authentic food to your business every day?

You can’t search for “food service companies near me.” You have to look for something else. We suggest starting with “catering platform [your city].”

There’s a good chance that you’ll find Fooda there; we’re in 22 cities and one whole county at the time of this writing. But if we’re not in your city yet, there are plenty of other options.

The most important thing to look for is that the catering platform partners with local restaurants. You’re not looking for just any catering company; you want one that brings in fantastic food from your city.

Finally, make sure that the platform, provider, or company you’re considering is going to save you money. Contract food service providers have an antiquated profit-driven model that costs you more money in the long run and results in worse food.

Find a company that does it the right way and you’ll be ecstatic with your results.

(When you’re ready to choose a provider, be sure to ask these nine questions to make sure you’re choosing the right one.)