Facilities Managers, Office Managers and those with the ultimate sign off decision for workplace food and beverages have a lot to think about. Budgets are under increasing pressure, both for businesses and consumers, and the job market is as tight as it has been in the last decade, putting food and beverage solutions an ever more important element of recruitment and retention strategies.
It can be a real challenge to get the right information, the right suppliers and implement the right food and beverage solution for the business at the best of times. Doing this with the added pressures of today is no mean feat.
But where do you start when the requirements are so broad, and you’re faced with vastly different options of vending, catering, micro markets or fully in-house managed food and beverage?
In this article, we’ll explore the essential aspects of creating an effective workplace food and beverage strategy. Whatever your role in the business, this guide will help you navigate the world of workplace sustenance and give you clarity on where to turn.
Understanding the Importance of Workplace Food and Beverage
In the modern workplace, food and beverage services are no longer a luxury but a necessity. The time employees spend at work is substantial, and what they consume during those hours directly affects their performance and happiness.
A well-thought-out food and beverage strategy can:
- Boost employee morale and job satisfaction.
- Improve productivity by reducing energy slumps and enhancing concentration.
- Promote a healthier work environment.
- Attract and retain top talent.
The first step to take as a decision maker or influencer in the food and beverage search for your business, is to clearly define the challenges that you, your staff, or the organisation are facing. It may be as simple as there being no quick or easy access to fresh water on site, because of the way the facilities are laid out, or it might be that staff are spending too long away from the office at lunch and breaktimes, because of a lack of food and beverage on-site.
These problems can be simple or extremely complex, and getting them nailed down early-on makes the rest of your food and beverage project a lot more straightforward.
One final item to look at before you get deep into your project is the budget, as this will likely be closely aligned with the business’ priorities and aims to overcome certain challenges. If the value of the project to the business is high, you’ll have a realistic budget to complete and implement it, without having to fight for funding late-on. It’s natural for solutions to be chopped and changed a couple of times prior to sign off, but having the budgets agreed means you won’t be left in the lurch if the business decides on sign-off day to utilise the funds elsewhere.
Assessing Your Workplace Needs
Off the back of your defined challenges, you can begin to delve deeper into how your existing food and beverage setup overcomes (partially or fully), or fails to overcome these challenges. You may have a catering solution in place whereby staff can have a free breakfast or lunch, but that the range is extremely limited and uptake is poor. It might be that one of your main challenges is to retain top talent, and that you feel with the current setup you are unable to compete with other businesses in attracting the best candidates for your roles.
As you work through this second stage of the process you will naturally begin to think about the F&B needs and wants of your employees. It’s highly recommended that you start with a blank slate here rather than basing your decisions on a few pieces of anecdotal evidence or preconceptions on how you feel it currently works. Putting together some surveys, dropping into the office kitchen space at lunch and engaging with staff or utilising data from your existing solution, are all great ways to build a rich picture of your staff consumption behaviours and requirements.
Within this, you will start to see trends emerging around dietary requirements, the time they’re willing to spend waiting for food to be prepared, and how much value they place on food and beverage being available in the workplace (both commercially and from a time perspective).
Understanding your workforce’s unique requirements will lay the foundation for a successful food and beverage strategy.
Crafting the Right Product Mix for Your Business
A well-rounded menu is key to satisfying diverse tastes and dietary needs. Consider offering a variety of options, including healthy snacks, fresh fruits, salads, protein-rich choices, and vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free alternatives. Of course, now you’ve completed your staff surveys and got some great data about existing consumption behaviour, you’ll be able to do this in your sleep!
Don’t worry though, if you don’t have this all worked out just yet or you’d like some guidance, that’s not going to cause you any problems. As long as you have a rough idea of the general makeup of your product range, that’ll be enough to push to the next stage of the scoping process.
For example, you may have found out from your employee engagement exercise that staff would really appreciate having the option of frozen ready meals for the night shifts during the colder winter months. Similarly, a large proportion of your workforce wanted to have access to treats like ice creams and ice lollies for when the weather was particularly glorious during summer – you now know that having a freezer in your new food and beverage setup will tick a lot of boxes, and help you overcome your challenges for employee satisfaction and happiness.
If your team say they love the idea of having sushi or other Japanese dishes available during the lunch break, you know that you’ll need at least a shelf in a fridge to hold these sorts of products, with the usual mix of sandwiches, wraps and paninis on other shelves. Some staff may want a range of Indian or Chinese products, and before you know it, you’re needing a couple of fridges to cater for these needs.
It’s all starting to come together!
Sourcing a Food and Beverage Supplier
You’re now at the sharp end of this process and need to start building out a detailed specification for the space you have available in your workplace, and what equipment, broadly, you will need to install. Having done your homework, you’ll be able to approach a handful of suppliers and pass the information across, helping streamline the process and also ensure that everyone is on the same page from day dot.
The quality of your food and beverage offerings depends on where you source them. You can choose to manage everything in-house, outsource to professional caterers, or collaborate with local vendors. Ensure your vendors align with your commitment to quality, freshness, and, if possible, sustainability. It’s important to be upfront with each of the suppliers you contact, in asking them for some case studies or existing client contacts to contact – nothing speaks more powerfully about a company’s ability, than happy customers.
It also pays to push the suppliers for information on how they would approach a project like yours, as some will treat your business and transactional, failing to grasp the importance of overcoming your challenges and the impact on the wider business. In the same sense, being able to see for yourself how they measure their customer service levels and outcomes, is vital – every business will tell you their service is exceptional, but few can demonstrate it!
Getting Your Ducks in a Row
You’ve reached out to potential suppliers and have been working through different options from traditional vending, through to micro markets, as well as a mix of both solutions, but there’s plenty of work that still needs to be done on your side well in advance of signing an agreement.
Firstly, you need to identify whether the space(s) you’ve highlighted for the new solution to be implemented in, is ready to be fitted. Most vending machines, water coolers and micro market solutions will require a combination of water, electricity and waste connections at various points in the room, to easily hook up to machinery. Not having these connections in place can seriously hold up an installation, and push your project back by weeks or months.
Another practical consideration is the space itself, including walls and access points. Do any walls need to be removed or added, does the plasterboard need to be chipped out to make extra space, or does anything need to otherwise be modified to help machinery fit properly?
Finally, there’s a critical piece that many people leave until late on in the process to look at, and this causes countless issues, sometimes entirely derailing a project for years. If you already have a vending or catering contract in place, you need to have agreed termination with this supplier and be crystal clear on the notice period, end date and what will happen to the existing equipment. As you can imagine, this can throw things into turmoil quickly, if not looked at early in the project.
Getting Started Today
If you’re reading this blog article, then it’s likely that you’re in a facilities or office management role and are looking at a similar project yourself, right now. Firstly, we really hope you found this article insightful and helpful, and that you can see the value in following these different steps on your journey towards better food and beverage.
Connect Vending works with hundreds of clients across the UK, and our expertise covers vending machines, coffee machines, water solutions, micro markets and food and drink wholesaling. We really do cover the complete spectrum of food and beverage and know what makes for a successful implementation.
We’d love to speak to you about your requirements and show you how we can support you at every stage of your process. You can reach out to our sales team today on 01865 341011, email us on email@example.com or submit an enquiry to receive a callback.
Our team work collaboratively with you from day one, helping provide clarify and confidence throughout. Let’s get you on your way to better food and beverage in the workplace.