Feeding the Hybrid Workforce: Catering for Office Managers

May 17, 2024
Hybrid Work
Feeding the Hybrid Workforce: Catering for Office Managers

TL;DR Article Summary

Eating dinner together is a cherishable tradition for many families. It’s a moment to share stories, learn more about each other, and form deeper connections. Similarly, sharing meals can bring your employees closer together as well. 67% of hybrid workers say free lunch would impact their decision to work on-site, according to ezCater’s The Lunch Report 2023. For companies trying to decide how else to motivate employees back to the office—take note.

But it’s not just about using food as a motivator for going to the office. Providing employees with food has additional benefits, such as boosting employee morale, productivity, and collaboration—all factors that lead to higher-performing teams. Two of the top three amenities offered in higher-performing workplaces are food-related, according to Gensler’s 2024 Global Workplace Survey.

A hybrid work environment may bring new challenges to figuring out food catering logistics, but the benefits are well worth it. Office managers can use workplace management tech to streamline their catering operations and create better hybrid workplace experiences. 

What’s So Good About Food at Work?

Food can motivate attendance, productivity, hiring and retention, and engagement. The Food for Work report by ezCater found that 42% of employees report higher-quality work with free food, and 78% say they have more energy to put into work after a good meal. Employer-provided food also helps workers feel appreciated and less stressed at work. Feeling joy at work matters, as employees who enjoy their work are 49% less likely to say they would consider taking a new job than ones who don’t (BCG).

Additionally, employer-provided food can help employees take a proper lunch break while at work, which helps decrease stress and increase productivity. 48% of employees feel less burned out when they take a proper lunch break (ezCater). The time that employees spend eating together also helps with relationship-building and ad hoc exchanges of ideas that lead to better collaboration.

Navigating the Culinary Curveballs at Work

In a hybrid work environment, creating an inclusive and equitable experience for both your remote and in-office employees can be a challenge. Office managers should consider various ways to ensure office catering works for both groups. One way to accommodate your remote and in-office employees may be to provide cash cards instead of office catering to ensure fairness and inclusivity among all your employees. For example, Skedda does exactly that with our Teammate Thursday Lunches.

Skedda team members showcasing their TMT lunch photos from around the world.
“It was a fun and casual way to bond and connect, but also a way to ensure equity among our Boston based and our remote team. It also allowed the entire Skedda team to showcase some spectacular lunch photos—from Vietnamese summer rainbow rolls in South Africa to pierogi in Poland and wok udon noodles with some crispy duck in Berlin.” - Maria Casella, VP of People & Operations at Skedda

Handling individual meal preferences and assessing dietary restrictions in a diverse workforce can also be a logistical headache. Providing a variety of options is a good step toward accommodating diverse tastes. Office managers can opt to order individually packaged meals over shared tray catering. 65% of workers actually prefer individually packaged meals versus 35% who prefer shared tray catering (ezCater).

How To Make Food Catering a Piece of Cake

Lunchtime is a highlight in many employees’ work days, especially when employers provide food that people like. With so much variety in food catering, ensuring everyone gets what they want at the right time can be a nightmare. Office managers can leverage tech tools to streamline food catering requests and operations.

1. Reduce Confusion With Online Ordering System

A centralized platform like an online ordering system ensures all requests are captured and tracked in one place, improving visibility and organization. Employees can place catering requests directly through the system, eliminating the need for emails, phone calls, or manual forms. This streamlines the ordering process and reduces the risk of miscommunication or missed requests.

An online ordering system may also include other features that help streamline operations: 

  • Menu management allows employees to browse and select items directly, ensuring that everyone gets their preferences. The system can also display menu updates and changes in real-time. 
  • Workflow approvals allow organizations to customize their approval processes based on factors like budget, headcount, or event type, ensuring proper oversight and control. 
  • Automated delivery helps coordinate timely delivery, setup, and cleanup of catered events, making the whole food catering experience efficient and enjoyable.

2. Integrate a Workplace Management Platform

Integrating your catering requests with your workplace management system can streamline food catering. By linking catering requests with meeting room bookings, employees can simultaneously request catering services through the same system when booking their meeting room or workspace. This integration ensures catering orders are automatically linked to the appropriate meeting or event, reducing the risk of miscommunication or missed orders.

A workplace management system can also help automate catering service notifications, reminders, and approvals. The admin in charge of catering can review and approve/deny requests within the system, ensuring proper oversight and control. Automated notifications and reminders of space bookings with catering needs can be sent to relevant parties, such as the facility staff and meeting attendees, keeping everyone informed and aligned.

“Every week we review Skedda to see which large event bookings we have received. Because of the custom fields we have added to the Skedda booking form, we know the event size and the capacity of the room, which helps organize resources and catering accordingly.” - Steve Maclaren, Chief Operating Officer at The National Robotarium

See how The National Robotarium uses Skedda to organize catering.

3. Serve Up Success With Reliable Vendors

Establishing preferred vendor partnerships may be wise for organizations that often cater food. Building long-term partnerships can lead to consistent service, customized offerings, and negotiated rates or discounts. Organizations can vet and select a curated list of preferred catering vendors based on quality, reliability, pricing, and dietary accommodation.

Organizations can use a vendor management system to maintain a database of approved catering vendors, pricing, and negotiated corporate rates or discounts. Office managers can use this information to streamline ordering, billing, and vendor selection processes, ensuring compliance with negotiated terms and rates.

4. Mix and Match With Flexible Menu Options

Hybrid workplaces require catering options that accommodate both on-site and remote employees. One method may be to provide remote employees with a prepaid cash card to enjoy an employer-provided lunch regardless of location, while on-site employees can choose lunch items from a local restaurant. 

Organizations should consider providing various menu options to meet employees’ diverse dietary needs and preferences (e.g., vegetarian, gluten-free, halal). Offering a mix of meal types (e.g., hot, cold, grab-and-go) can help accommodate different work schedules. Organizations can enhance the hybrid workplace experience by allowing for customizations and special requests.

5. Bake in Clear Communication Channels

Transparent communication can enhance the overall experience and build trust in the catering process. Implementing clear guidelines and protocols for submitting catering requests, including lead times and event details, can streamline the process and set expectations. Organizations should provide training and resources to ensure employees understand and follow the established protocols, improving compliance and reducing errors.

There are many ways to optimize food catering, depending on specific needs and the work environment. Gathering feedback can help identify areas for enhancement, such as menu offerings, service quality, or ordering processes, and inform future decision-making.

Become the Cream of the Crop at Catering

The power of food—especially ones provided by employers—should not be taken lightly. Organizations that offer food catering can boost employee morale, help with retention, and improve productivity. By leveraging the right tools and strategies, office managers can streamline catering operations, improve efficiency, and deliver an enjoyable experience that creates a positive hybrid workplace culture. 

If you’re ready to start streamlining operations at your hybrid workplace, create your free Skedda account today.

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