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How Will Catering Change When we Return to our Offices?

How will Catering Change When we Return to our Offices?
30 June 2020 | Updated 02 July 2020

Concerned about how post-lockdown office catering might work? Dean Kennett from Fooditude tells us how it can be done safely.

Dean Kennett is the founder of Fooditude, a contract catering company. Back in 2005, Kennett founded Fooditude with the aim to shake up corporate office culture and bring office catering back to what really matters – the customers. 


"No matter how delicious food is, people will not enjoy it if they’re concerned with the level of hygiene caterers put in place. Make sure that packaged food meets the consumer's new high standards for visible displays of good hygiene practice. Don’t let packaging fall behind on emerging trends, keep an eye out on what other canteens and food outlets are doing to stay in-the-know."

–Dean Kennett

Founder, Fooditude


The End of the Lunch Rush on the High Street?


For anyone whose job it is to make sure their teams are well fed, they’ve likely been feeling stressed about how to provide food safely after lockdown. The lunch rush on the high street has been pinned by the government as a dangerous event that could increase infection rates. 

Tall buildings, where employees are reliant on lifts to take people to their office space, will struggle to put effective social distancing into practice. In this case, the easy option of “popping out to the shops” for lunch becomes near impossible and the provision of office catering a necessity.

There is no doubt that people will feel insecure about their safety when returning to work. In fact, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has uncovered that two out of five workers are worried about not being able to socially distance in the workplace. Putting it another way, two out of every five people considering eating at work are going to be especially concerned about the social distancing and hygiene measures caterers have put in place. 

Amongst research with our own clients, we know 50 per cent are moderately concerned about the safety of their food but a third are actually very concerned. So, we need to do all we can to assure them that their meals are produced in the most hygienic way possible. Of course food safety has always been a top priority for us but we expect our hygiene procedures to be ever more scrutinised post-lockdown - and rightly so!


Preparing Dining Spaces


It’s essential to directly follow government guidance when it comes to preparing dining spaces. However, as a quick guide for those trying to adapt catering spaces, there are three main issues to consider:


  1. Assess how you will make space for physical distancing
  2. Understand how people will move through the space
  3. Establish rules and a code of conduct for the dining area


Communicating the new rules clearly will be fundamental in keeping things running smoothly. At Fooditude, we’re thinking of signage a bit differently than we used to. Now, it’s less about brand messaging and more about safety. We’re taking cues from places like public pools that usually have a clear set of rules large enough for everyone to see. You don’t follow the rules - you get kicked out of the pool! We don’t want anyone getting kicked out of our canteens but we do anticipate some teething pains as we get started back to work and clear signage will keep people safe and avoid conflict.


Tracing Food Journeys


Food delivery is a great way to accommodate changing requirements for food at work after lockdown as there is more flexibility in terms of what is on offer and fluctuating headcounts. It will be important to know where food is made if switching to or starting a delivery service. 

The easiest thing to do is search food hygiene ratings on the Scores on the Doors website. It’s also worth checking to see if they have any extra accreditations that pertain to food safety. Good accreditations to look out for include SALSA (Safe and Local Supplier Approval), BRC and ISO9001. Any reputable caterer will also be happy to share their HACCP protocols or any documentation they might have from external health and safety auditors.


Serving Food Safely


The days of open buffets and salad bars are gone for the foreseeable future. In response, it’s likely that packaged food for offices will be in high demand. According to the UK government, it’s very unlikely that people will catch the virus from food. The virus is not yet known to be transmitted by exposure to food or by its packaging. It will be important that food is presented with the optics of being safe and uncontaminated for consumers. No matter how delicious food is, people will not enjoy it if they’re concerned with the level of hygiene caterers put in place. 


Healthy meal in pre-prepared tub

Picture: A photograph showing a pre-prepared lunch of broccoli and chicken


Make sure that packaged food meets the consumer's new high standards for visible displays of good hygiene practice. Don’t let packaging fall behind on emerging trends, keep an eye out on what other canteens and food outlets are doing to stay in-the-know.


Keeping it Social


Once you’ve established adequate virus safety precautions, you should turn your attention to keeping things social in the canteen. Fooditude’s purpose is all about bringing people together with a shared meal so they can communicate and collaborate better at work. Admittedly, this will be a little more difficult after lockdown, but not impossible!

By making slight adjustments you can keep the buzz alive. Think about turning down the music so people talking at a distance can hear each other or introducing a table booking system to create a more manageable flow of people through the dining area. Advanced bookings are also a great way for colleagues to plan lunch together without the risk of not being able to find adjacent seating. 

Catering in the workplace will not be the same as it was before, we will have to adapt to a ‘new normal’ with extra safeguarding precautions that radically change how we operate. Despite this, we shouldn’t lose sight that good food at mealtimes has the power to make people happier, healthier and motivated in their lives.

Picture: A photograph of a platter of sandwiches

Article written by Dean Kennett | Published 30 June 2020


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