Creating a daily meal or cafeteria program for your team is a great way to help boost engagement, improve employee retention and position your organization as an employer of choice. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of the boss paying for lunch every day?
But it can also be a disaster if it’s not managed properly. How?
We’ve seen organizations hire catering firms that put profit over experience, logistics and virtually every other relevant consideration to produce food—a charitable description, in many cases—that’s boring, bland and usually unappetizing. Worse, they still charge the client as if they were putting on a premium spread. In our view, that’s simply not acceptable. We want all of our corporate clients and their employees (or, in some cases, their customers) to live the moment and love the food whenever they sit down to enjoy a Kiss the Cook-catered daily meal or cafeteria program.
Through years of experience, we’ve worked out a reliable system to avoid some of the most common pitfalls that plague these programs. What we’ve learned is that they’re all avoidable with the right planning and management. What are those issues? We’re very glad you asked. First, let’s start with the basics: logistics.
Making it easy to eat
Many caterers will neglect considerations as simple and straightforward as having food ready to eat at specific times. This is especially important for businesses with shift changes or customer service mandates that require their staff to sit down to break bread at specific times. Frankly, punctuality problems such as this—not to mention the other challenge that some caterers have, which is showing up to a gig on time!—have as much to do with attention to detail (or lack thereof) as having the right systems in place to cater to a client’s unique needs. We dedicate a professional delivery person or team (depending on the size of the job) to each client, so that daily deliveries are always reliable and set-ups go off without a hitch.
That’s why good caterers are always willing to be flexible. Case in point: we often serve boxed take-away lunches when cafeteria spaces are small, or in situations where clients are on a tight lunch timeline.
Another logistical challenge is people management. Not only catering staff, but even something as rudimentary as ensuring that line-ups are minimized whenever possible and that employees are moved through queues with haste so they actually have time to enjoy the food served to them. This can be a major problem when incorporating elaborate food stations into a meal program. It’s not uncommon to see caterers develop a seemingly straightforward station (think breakfast omelettes) and under-staff it. At Kiss the Cook, we confirm the number of employees we’ll be serving and then assign a staff-to-guest ratio accordingly. If a mealtime is particularly tight, we’ll recommend simpler fare that’s still tastes great, but requires less prep time or service work.
There are clearly a lot of moving parts at play when catering for up to 500 people a day, as is the case for catering firms such as ours. That’s why we’ll assign a dedicated account manager to work with your team or point person, to ensure that every meal service goes as planned. That means you have a person on our end with whom you can build a relationship and direct any questions or concerns at any time. You likely have a lot on your plate—worrying about whether lunch is going to arrive on time (or at all) should never be an issue.
Poor timing and lacklustre logistics management usually goes hand in hand with poor service. There’s nothing that bothers us more than watching service staff treat their guests as an afterthought; as if they’re doing them a favour by merely doing their jobs. Imagine taking the time and making the investment to conceptualize and implement an amazing daily catered meal program for your employees, only to have the entire plan ruined by disengaged servers and chefs? We can’t, even though we know it happens all the time.
That’s why our people are trained to think equal parts delicious food and unforgettable experience when staging any of our events. It’s a formula that works and one we’ll continue to embrace. Again, that means having the right number of staff on site for a meal service, and ensuring they’re properly trained. In our case, that means briefing our people on unique client requests, as well as running through our very own ‘pre-flight’ checklist of key points that we ensure are locked down and top of mind before we take the cover off a single buffet warmer or fire up our food stations.
Yeah, I guess you could say that serving unsatisfactory food would be the ultimate pitfall for a catered meal program. It’s also one that you think catering firms would get right. It is their core function, after all. But in believing that, you would be very wrong. More on taste in a moment.
Running low on food is a common issue that organizations encounter when working with lower-standard catering firms. For someone with both an Italian and Czech background—that would be me—this is simply not an option at a Kiss the Cook event! We’ve had countless corporate clients approach us for help over the years only to hear a common complaint surface again and again: “We used another catering firm, but they consistently ran out of food.” There’s simply no excuse for missing the mark on this front. Our rule is to always prepare about 10 per cent more food than we need for a daily catered meal or cafeteria program. What we don’t use, we typically donate to not-for-profit organizations such as Liftovers. That way we can be confident that your employees will always leave the meal table full and with a smile on their faces.
Of course, you also need to serve the right foods to keep them satisfied. We put a lot of effort into keeping our daily catered meal program menus fresh and exciting. Our diverse team of chefs take pride in making clients feel like they’re eating in a new restaurant every day by incorporating new themes, dishes, food stations and other tasty treats into their menus. People get bored, so it’s important to keep a meal plan exciting for fear of the entire program falling flat and missing the mark in terms of delivering the desired return on investment.
Your account manager will work with you to get a sense of your team’s tastes—through informal focus groups or workplace surveys—and then translate those preferences into a series of recommended menus. Dietary needs or preferences (kosher, gluten-free, low-carb, lactose intolerances, etc.) are all part of that conversation, as well as any minor or major food allergies of which we need to be aware.
Diversity is on the menu
The last pitfall I want to highlight is important for organizations across the Greater Toronto Area, and that’s a failure to cater to a diverse workforce. There’s a very good chance your staff is comprised of people from a range of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. Part of being an employer of choice and embracing diversity means serving food that your people find comforting, and even challenging them by adding items to the menu that some of their colleagues might recognize, but might be foreign to them.
That’s why we’re sure to incorporate dishes from across the globe in every daily catered corporate meal or cafeteria program we put together. From our signature butter chicken and Pad Thai to Vietnamese Pho and Caribbean jerk pork—and all dishes in between—we work hard to make sure that your employees see their cultures and traditions reflected on the menu or buffet.
At a time of low unemployment and in a seller’s market when employees can pick and choose their next employer, it’s the little (yet highly important) touches such as these that can often move the needle, positioning your organization as a prospective staffer’s employer of choice. Serving up mouth-watering dishes each and every day helps, too!
On that last point, we’ve got you covered.
Contact us now to book your daily corporate meal program!