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Improve Employee Retention with Food Service Programs Designed for the New Normal

Improve Employee Retention with Food Service Programs Designed for the New Normal

What is the new normal food service programs must address?

Without question, COVID-19 dramatically changed the new normal for employer food service programs. Workplaces normally filled with people working on site, interacting frequently, eating in common dining areas and sometimes even working in open workspaces became virtual ghost towns. With employees working from home or temporarily furloughed, employers shut down food service programs and began to analyze how they might need to change if-and-when employees would be returning to work on-site.

For other employers, such as retail grocery and distribution, the challenge was the opposite. Food service programs needed to immediately evolve and expand in order to promote the safest options for workforces growing exponentially, practically overnight.

In a QSRWeb.com article titled Covid-19 will forever change the foodservice industry experts predicted that seven key consumer transitions should advise food service programs in the immediate and foreseeable future:

  1. Food delivered (or available) on-site, precluding the need for workers to leave the premises and return to get food and beverages during the course of their workday.
  2. A food-safety-first mentality including not only safe food handling practices, but which also satisfies the consumer’s increasing desire to know where food was sourced, grown, raised and processed. This includes a push for better supply chain transparency and tracking and increased local sourcing.
  3. Increasing sanitization behaviors including increased use of sanitizing products during cleaning, more frequent cleaning, availability of wipes, hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers. Consumers are also being proactive in self-sanitizing of their workstations, break and dining room seating and tables, and so on.
  4. Minimal-touch options, regardless of outlet (retail, restaurant, delivery, etc.)
  5. Contactless self-ordering and payment using technology, regardless of outlet.
  6. Improved packaging that is tamper-resistant and maintains proper food temperature, moisture, and presentation.
  7. Expanded options for higher quality and chef-driven foods.

Some of these trends were even in play before COVID-19 impacted workplace food service programs. For instance, sales of prepared foods from retail and convenience stores were already on the rise. In 2019, two thirds of consumers said they bought prepared foods from retailers at least three times a month, up 11 percent from 2017, according to a trend report titled 5 ways retail foodservice is changing published on cspdailynews.com

Likewise, in another article titled 7 C-Store Foodservice Trends That Will Shape 2020 Technomic explains that, “the desire for better-for-you foods is stronger among young millennial and Gen Z, but expectations for fresher, cleaner foods are heightening across demographics.” Among the 2019 trends cited, the study found that:

  • 63% want convenience stores to offer more healthy foods
  • 46% purchase healthy options more now than they did two years ago
  • 50% percent would visit more often if offered healthy food and drink options

Consumers are also trending away from traditional breakfast-lunch-dinner mealtimes and toward non-traditional meals. Many employees eat smaller meals throughout the day including fresh fruit, granola bars, chips and crackers, trail mix, yogurt, etc. And even traditional meals are not always consumed at traditional times. In 2019, 62 percent of people who bought prepared foods from retailers said they purchased breakfast at least once a month, up 6 percent from 2017. “Maintaining portability and speed for crave-able breakfast options is essential.”

How can workplace food service programs evolve to meet the new normal and consumer trends?

Employers have to adjust food service programs to the new post COVID-19 normal in three critical ways:

  • Make workplace food service programs as contactless as possible, at every step
  • Keep employees in the workplace throughout the course of their shift or workday
  • Work with trusted vendors that operate transparently, creating employer and employee confidence in the safety of not only food and beverages but the entire process as well

Full food service programs with large dining spaces and meals prepared on-site may not be optimal anymore. They are difficult to keep sanitized and capacity is greatly reduced due to the need for social distancing. Buffet style dining where workers must touch common tableware, silverware, napkins and serving tools may even go the way of the dinosaur.

That does not mean food service programs should be discarded. As human beings adjusting to the “new normal” in every aspect of life, having food service programs that support and even indulge them in the workplace can be an incredible tool to improve employee retention!

On-site workplace micro markets and office coffee service programs could be an ideal way to improve employee engagement and retention. Not only do they provide a way to satisfy consumer desires for healthy, locally sourced, prepared and handled foods, they also offer a greater variety than bulk pantry or vending machines. In addition, employers can feel confident they are providing for the safety of workers by choosing to work with food service vendors who are committed to cleaning and sanitation at every step.

Micro markets provide for safe food storage temperatures and behind-the-glass display and items are packaged appropriately. The micro market is also a winner when it comes to satisfying those people who prefer to eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day, and for those employees whose stomachs are growling mid-morning, long before the lunch break occurs.

Since a wide variety of food options can now be purchased on-site, micro markets preclude the need for employees to leave the workplace to get food and beverages. They offer contactless payment options and fewer surfaces that need to be touched throughout the process, making employees feel less insecure about the environment and food in the workplace.

How can micro market food service programs can improve employee engagement and retention?

COVID-19 caused many different kinds of loss and created new insecurities for workers. People have lost enough! More than ever, employers must look for new ways to keep people engaged by making them feel cared for and safe.

A workplace micro market already provides two key advantages over vending machines and bulk pantries: enhanced safety and a wider variety of food and drink choices, including healthy and fresh food and drinks. Employers can further leverage micro market food service programs to engage workers by treating it as an employee perk, enhancing it by:

  • Sales, promotions, and coupons
  • Happy hour pricing
  • Subsidizing employee costs – putting money previously spent on other types of food service into employees’ hands to spend at the micro market
  • Awards and recognition monetized with micro market credits

Why choose Evergreen Refreshments for your workplace food service vendor?

We understand the new normal employers are facing after COVID-19 because we are an employer facing the new normal after COVID-19. We have employees to keep safe. We have analyzed our procedures at our facility and throughout the process from end to end, from where we get the food and drinks we supply to workplace micro markets to how they are transported, delivered and stocked.

First and foremost, when an employee is sick or believes they may have been exposed, we want them to stay home. We have ramped up our everyday cleaning and we are constantly disinfecting surfaces, in and outside of our facility. Trucks are cleaned daily. PPE (personal protective equipment) is supplied to all employees.

Our micro markets already offered touchless payments and food is visibly displayed, often behind glass, reducing touchpoints and exposure. We are a partner you can trust to take care of procedures that will limit risk to your employees.

Our micro market food service programs are also very flexible and can grow with your workplace as your workforce grows. If you previously had a large food service program, micro markets are a great alternative because they can be sized and stocked appropriately as more employees return to on-site work or meetings.

Another great benefit of micro market food service programs is that they can be implemented with little or no cost to you as the employer! We can manage the program completely, including adjusting supply and variety based on demand. You do not have to order less, we constantly adjust levels automatically.

Cafeteria-style food service programs of the past were costly to operate and complex. Pivoting to a micro market can save you a massive amount of money without taking anything away from employees. It can even become a revenue center – ask us how!


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