Canadians spend a huge portion of their time in the workplace–whether at a corporate office, a job site, in a retail environment, at an institution such as a school or hospital, or at another work environment. In 2017, nearly 7 million of us worked 40 hours a week or more.
That’s a lot of hungry employees.
In response, progressive organizations—e.g., the ones competing hard for top talent in their respective industries—have followed an example set by the likes of Google, Facebook and other Silicon Valley darlings by developing substantial daily corporate catering programs for their staff. In many cases, these meals are free or highly subsidized. They can also be terribly boring.
Let’s face it—any of us who have been excited to learn that the company was spontaneously buying us dinner or lunch were soon disappointed to realize we were being fed greasy pizza or other unhealthy takeout options.
Even when a meal service is planned, it’s often built around deli sandwiches which can be tasty, but lack a nutritional or culinary punch. They’re the same-old, same-old of corporate catering (unless they’re made with Kiss the Cook’s fresh, fabulous flare, but I digress).
So, here’s our idea: let’s make daily catering programs interesting and exciting again! Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It is, but many organizations can’t seem to get past the hum-drum menus of yesteryear. So, we’re taking back the catered meal experience. We’ve had it with seeing corporate types chow down on soggy, boring sandwiches when they could be indulging in delicious shawarmas or tempting tacos.
As we’ve written about recently, offering employees restaurant-quality food is about more than putting a smile on their faces (but it’s definitely about that, too). A well-designed and delivered catered meal program is a productivity booster when busy season (e.g., right now) forces your staff to work overtime. When done right, it’s a great engagement tool that reminds employees that their health and wellness matter to the company. We’ve even seen executive teams ask if they can be involved with serving at an event, or helping our chefs, as a way to show appreciation to their hard-working staff.
A well-executed corporate meal program is also a very effective tool to attract and retain the kind of talent that can deliver game-changing results to your organization.
We’re not naïve, of course—employees don’t just sign on the dotted line because they hear that you shell out for awesome catered barbecue parties in summer time. But a delicious corporate meal program is one extra value proposition that can help elevate your employer brand in the eyes of prospective staffers.
Now, you’re probably wondering how to turn your employee meal program into a mouth-watering winner. That’s where we can help. Here are five ways to liven up your daily catering:
Build your own buffets—We all know and love the traditional salad bar—so much healthy goodness, so much choice. What’s not to love? Although we’re not ones to say ‘no’ to a customizable combination of romaine, croutons and cherry tomatoes, salad bars can be a bit passe. That’s not to say that you have to forego them altogether. They can be elevated by adding a fun theme and taking a non-traditional approach. But what other kinds of build-your-own buffet options can we throw into the menu mix? We’ve had huge success introducing offerings such as our customized pho stations, a build your own taco booth or personalized pasta stations to add to the lunchtime fun. Best of all, these interactive options are so customizable you can get your staff involved in choosing the food that’s served on them. Sounds like a sure fire winner to us.
Hire a chef for the day—‘Well, there goes the annual corporate catering budget,’ you might be thinking to yourself after processing that suggestion. Not so fast. It’s relatively inexpensive to hire a chef to prepare food on-site. We’ve worked with our chefs to create custom menus for clients that have included everything from meat carving stations to made-to-order omelettes. Hiring your own chef adds a unique touch to your corporate catering program, breaks up the monotony of your average menu plan and shows your staff that you want to go above and beyond to satisfy their palettes. Want to kick it up a notch? Our chefs can even stage an impromptu cooking demonstration to explain exactly how to create a couple of dishes on offer during your meal. It’s a fun way to add a creative, interactive and educational element to meal time.
Think international—We live in a multicultural society that loves to indulge in dishes from around the world. There’s no reason why that approach can’t extend to your daily catering program. If you have a diverse workforce, ask for input into their favourite cultural dishes. In our case, we can often accommodate ethnic cuisine requests (and our chefs love the challenge of preparing a new, exciting dish). If we can’t do it in-house, we’ll tap our extensive network of culinary professionals and find someone who we can partner with to deliver the dish. The point is that you can introduce everything from Szechuan to Indian to Syrian foods into your menu repertoire, while still staying on budget. We even like to tie international dishes into cultural holidays such as Chinese New Year, Diwali or Passover. It’s a nice reminder to your employees you respect their cultures and want to celebrate along with them.
Choose a theme—OK, so sometimes you need to get ever more creative to keep the staff excited. One fun idea we love is create a theme meal and roll out some unique, crowd-pleasing dishes. What about a pub-grub meal—for many of our clients it’s a fun Friday lunch staple? You could include a fish and chip station, wings, sliders, shepherd’s pie, bubble and squeak or bangers and mash (if you want to get really authentic) or any other fare that you’d find on the menu of a fave watering hole. If pub food doesn’t make the cut, how about a menu of comfort foods from mac and cheese to grilled pizzas (ideal if you opt for a barbecue meal) or our best-selling mini tacos? Why not even try a throwback menu where you poll staff on their top childhood meals and prepare adult-friendly, gourmet versions of a handful of their favourite selections for everyone to enjoy? The options are limitless. All you need is a bit of imagination, a willingness to experiment and a great caterer to bring it all together.
Think outside the lunch box—On that note, why not throw your employees a culinary curve? If your staff are breakfast fans, why not deliver an all-day breakfast themed lunch complete with omelettes, pancakes, bacon (um, bacon!), French toast and whatever other early-morning selections they’d love to enjoy in the p.m. hours. Maybe you could even include a food station featuring their preferred cereals or a build-your-own trail mix bar.
Another alternative is to remember that healthy eating is all the rage—and for good reason. Let’s face it, you want your employees to be as fit and healthy as possible. So, give them a corporate meal spread that’s undeniably nutritious and let them know that you’re focusing on serving healthy and delicious food. That could include individual Buddha bowls, mason jar salads and/or a smoothie bar where they can formulate their preferred concoctions of fruits and veg. It’s a great way to promote wellness and remind your employees that you care about what they eat.
Fia Pagnello, founder
Want to set up a unique and exciting catered meal program for your workplace? Contact us now!